Nash gone, what's next for Sharks?

July 25, 2012, 2:25 pm
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The Rick Nash saga is over, ending on Monday when he was traded by the Blue Jackets to the New York Rangers for a moderate-at-best return of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick.
RELATED: Jackets trade Nash to Rangers

Its not all that surprising when you consider the report here last week that the Sharks and Blue Jackets hadnt spoken in months about the winger, who had San Jose on his list of acceptable destinations. Columbus insisted on Logan Couture, the Sharks said no, and that was that. The Rangers appeared to be the only viable option the Blue Jackets had left.

So what happens now for San Jose?

The most likely answer may benothing major. At least for now.

Those hoping Doug Wilson would play the role of Ty Pennington and give the roster an extreme makeover are probably a bit disappointed at the moment despite some nice moves by the club this offseason. The Sharks were able to trade for and sign veteran d-man Brad Stuart; brought in a pair of veteran assistant coaches, including the highly respected Larry Robinson; added some personality and grit with forward Adam Burish; and locked up young and improving defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to a long-term deal at a very reasonable price.

Still, a core group that hasnt been able to take that necessary extra step to the Stanley Cup Final, remains. And, in fact, the Sharks took a pretty big step backwards in 2011-12 with an inconsistent regular season and first round defeat to the St. Louis Blues, who were then swept in the second round by Los Angeles.

While there are some big name forwards left in the free agenttrade market Shane Doan, Alex Semin and Bobby Ryan are at the top of the list dont expect San Jose to be in the running for any of those players.

The unrestricted free agent Doan has already made it be known his preference is to stay in Phoenix, and has reportedly given former Sharks executive Greg Jamison until Friday to see if he can make some more progress or get close to finalizing the sale, according to the Phoenix Business Journal (via Doan has already visited with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, and as of Tuesday, had no other visits scheduled.

Furthermore, after snagging Nash, the Rangers seem much closer to a Stanley Cup than do the Sharks. Doan is undoubtedly looking for a team that has a chance to win it all, and the Rangers may now be the preseason favorites after making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year.

As for Semin, also unrestricted and a former 40-goal scorer just three seasons ago, he simply wouldnt be a good fit in the Sharks locker room even if they were willing to dish out the likely 5-6 million per season that would be necessary to sign him. Wilson has already said he would like to change the Sharks identity next season and see his team play a more aggressive style.

In fact, the day they signed Burish, Wilson said: Were trying to re-establish our identity of going at people, and playing that way.

Semin wouldnt help in that regard, and the fact he hasnt seemed to generate all that much interest around the league this late in free agency, suggests that the questions about his desire to win may be valid.

Turning to Ryan, who has been on the block for what seems like forever now, Ducks GM Bob Murray would never trade him to a division rival, and his hometown of Philadelphia is probably Ryans likeliest destination at this point if he gets moved.

As for the rest of the trade market, the Sharks dont have many options there, either. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Marty Havlat and Michal Handzus all have some form of a no-trade clause, while Dan Boyles limited no-trade clause kicked in on July 1. The remaining players that are fair game, at least among the forwards, are the kind of players that the Sharks would probably not have any interest in moving. Joe Pavelski is coming off of a career-high in goals with 31 and has a cap-friendly hit of just 4 million over the next two seasons, while Ryane Clowe, despite a down year last year, is still among the teams more vocal leaders in the locker room and embodies that "go after them" style that Wilson is talking about more than anyone else.

It was reported last week by CBCs Elliotte Friedman that Boyles name is generating some interest around the league, but moving Boyle wouldnt seem to make much sense for the Sharks as we discussed here a few weeks ago. Sure, hes at the back end of his career and has a hefty 6.67 million price tag for the next two seasons, but the 36-year-old blueliner was arguably the Sharks best defenseman in the second half of last year and helped to quarterback the second-ranked power play in the NHL.

Collective bargaining agreement questions are also likely to quell any more big paychecks from San Jose, which was one of the few teams after the previous lockout with the room to acquire a hefty contract like Thorntons from Boston. Its very possible the Sharks will give their current group one more shot at it this season before exploring the UFA or trade market more aggressively in 2013, when other teams may be looking to shed salary to fit under what may be a much lower cap.

In other words, if youre waiting for that big summer splash it could be a year away.