Surrendering a second round pick to move up just two places in the first round in order to choose defenseman Mirco Mueller wasn’t a difficult decision to make, general manager Doug Wilson said on a conference call shortly after the conclusion of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in Newark, NJ.
“He was targeted right in that area,” Wilson said. “He’s a kid that’s going to be a very good NHL player for a long time. … Our sense was he was going to go at any second. You’d rather get the player that you want, than miss him by one or two.”
Sharks scouting director Tim Burke was asked about the organization’s level of concern that Mueller would not be around by the 20th overall pick, which is where the Sharks were slotted to select before a trade with Detroit gave them the 18th choice.
“It was enough. It was thinning out pretty quick in that area. We tried to go up a little bit before and we couldn’t, so we tried to inch up there,” Burke said. “It was getting risky.”
According to Burke, the Sharks weren’t necessarily targeting a defenseman with their first pick; rather, they planned to take the best player available. The club had a list of “four or five players” it hoped to select, some of them defensemen, and some of them forwards.
Sharks scouts saw Mueller two seasons ago in Europe, and much more this past season in the WHL with Everett (Washington).
Burke, who made it clear that Mueller, 18, will not yet be ready for the NHL in 2013-14, listed the defenseman’s attributes.
“His reach, his range, his skating ability, he can play all ends of the rink. He gets the play started, and he kills a lot of plays. He plays in all situations. We have a lot of good reports on him, and the support level (from the Sharks’ scouting staff) was really good for him.”
Burke relayed that the Sharks’ staff was impressed with Mueller's interview at the draft combine.
“He interviews like he plays. He’s very respectful, and he does his job. He’s not flamboyant. You know what you’re going to get. He’s very coachable and does what the team needs. He doesn’t go out of his outside of his boundaries in any way. He was impressive.”
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After trading away two of their three second round picks they had at the start of the day, San Jose used its remaining second rounder (49th overall) on forward Gabryel Boudreau from the Quebec League.
Here’s Burke’s take on the scoring winger:
“He’s one of those wingers that does a lot of things that centers do, where he shows up in a lot of different parts of the rink, not just a straight up-and-down, north-south player,” Burke said. “He has north-south in his game, but he has a high degree of creativity in his game, also.”
Did it become more important to find an offensive prospect after taking a defenseman in the first round?
“It worked out that way. It gives you a little bit of balance, which is never bad,” Burke said.
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Although it only recently became public knowledge that the Pittsburgh Penguins were putting Tyler Kennedy on the trading block, Wilson said that the Sharks had the forward on their radar for “probably close to a year,” and they’ve been trying to get him for “quite a while.”
“He’s a guy that, for us, fits us perfectly with how we want to play and the type of ingredients he brings in filling out our top nine,” Wilson said. “He can go up and down, plays with an edge, can certainly score goals, and that’s the type of player we’ve been looking for – not only for additional scoring, but to maintain the identity we tried to build with our team the last year, in particular.”
Barring any major transactions, the Sharks are not expected to be active when free agency opens on Friday, July 5. The club still has to sign pending restricted free agents Kennedy and TJ Galiardi.
“We’ve added several players in the last little while, and it starts with Raffi Torres, if you’re talking about our forward group. Signing Raffi and having him back, Tomas Hertl coming over is a big thing for us, getting Tyler, and the decision we’ll have to make on Burns in the next little while – I think you’ve seen how our group is coming together,” Wilson said.
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According to CapGeek.com, the Sharks have just $3.57 million in salary cap space with 19 players signed. That does not include Galiardi, Kennedy, a backup goalie, or Hertl, who would make $1.35 million should be make the NHL roster.
San Jose still has Marty Havlat, of course, who recently had major pelvic surgery and who carries a $5 million salary and cap hit. Wilson was asked if it’s now safe to assume Havlat will begin the season on long term injured reserve, potentially giving the Sharks flexibility under the reduced $64.3 million cap.
“There is no timeline for him to return, so without sharing everything, I think you’re assumption is probably not wrong,” Wilson said. “But, time will tell.”