Nash to Sharks doesn't make sense -- right now

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Nash to Sharks doesn't make sense -- right now

RALEIGH Its only natural to fantasize this time of year, with the NHLs trade deadline just 10 days away.

Its a little easier if youre a follower of the San Jose Sharks, too. Columbus superstar Rick Nash is on the market, and its being reported that the Sharks are interested. The feeling is at least somewhat mutual from Nash, who has San Jose on his list of acceptable destinations according to the Columbus Dispatch.

At this point, it seems very unlikely that he will get a chance to line up with his good buddy Joe Thornton for the stretch run and playoffs, in which San Jose will try and put an end to its 20-year Stanley Cup drought.

Heres why.

Put yourself in Columbus general manager Scott Howsons shoes for a moment. If you were trading one of the league's marquee players, and the man that has been the face of your franchise and most popular player for a while now, what would you want in return?

Howson is undoubtedly asking for a kings ransom in exchange for Nash. That includes a current established NHL player and a combination of prospects and draft picks. Its surprising enough that Howson, who has made a multitude of questionable moves for the organization, is even allowed to make this decision in the first place but thats a story for another day.

That being said, if Doug Wilson is on the line, what would you be asking him in return for Nash?

Well, for one, this deal likely wouldnt get done without Joe Pavelski, since hes one of the clubs major offensive threats that doesnt have a no-movement clause. It's doubtful that the Sharks would part ways with their 22-goal scorer that has been piling up goals and assists lately, not to mention that the power play has surged since Pavelski was put back on the point just before the All-Star break. Oh, and Pavelski is one of the NHL's best faceoff men for a team that relies so heavily on puck possession.

Ryane Clowe? With 10 goals and 23 assists thats not sexy enough of a name if youre in Howsons unenviable position of selling the trade to an overtly skeptical fan base. Sharks fans, as well as the coaches and management, know how valuable Clowe is on and off the ice. That wouldn't do it.

Logan Couture is obviously a non-starter.

But the Sharks have goaltending, you say, and thats a position in which the Blue Jackets desperately need help. Steve Mason has been every bit as bad as his numbers suggest (7-20-2 record, 3.40 goals-against average, .887 save percentage), and may be the single biggest reason that Columbus finds itself buried in last place in the league.

Thomas Greiss has been good as an NHL backup that much is true. But the sample size of his performance is just not large enough. Hes 4-0-1 in his last five starts but all of those were against teams not currently in playoff position, including a pair of wins over the Blue Jackets themselves.

Alex Stalock is intriguing, but has to prove he can play after sitting out for a year due to a serious severed nerve injury. Tyson Sexsmith isnt a big enough prospect, despite his AHL All-Star appearance last month.

Theres also the matter of Nashs huge contract. Hes signed through the 2017-18 season at a 7.8 million salary cap hit, and the Sharks already have more than 54 million committed to 14 players next season according to CapGeek.com. The salary cap will probably stay right around the 63-65 million mark next season.

They could fit Nash under the cap this year even if they kept Pavelski and his 4 million salary, but would have to shed some serious dollars next year.

As for draft picks, the Sharks have a first and second round pick, after trading their other second round pick for Dominic Moore. After that, they don't have a third or fourth round pick, and their prospect pool is already viewed as somewhat thin (in fact, the website Hockeysfuture.com has them ranked dead last).

So, where does Nash end up? Smart money right now says the Los Angeles Kings, who can offer goalie Jonathan Bernier and are desperately in need of scoring. The Boston Bruins have Tuukka Rask, while Vancouver Canucks have Cory Schneider, all of whom would have be part of the deal.

Or, maybe Nash stays put in Columbus. Theres no urgency for the Blue Jackets to make the deal, and a trade at the NHL draft in June may give them a better chance to get maximum value as more teams would likely be interested. The Blue Jackets have a number of other commodities on the market like Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, and they may want to see what they can get for those players while waiting to deal Nash.

If the Sharks have an abbreviated playoff run, though, that could make a major trade with the Blue Jackets a possibility should Nash still be there. Wilson showed last summer hes not afraid to make big time moves to try to try and get his team over the hump, and knows the window is closing for a core group that includes an aging Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.

Right now, though, it just doesnt seem feasible.

GMs have taken all the fun out of Trade Deadline day

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USATSI

GMs have taken all the fun out of Trade Deadline day

The NHL trade deadline came and went Monday night when the Washington Capitals went chips-in on St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

(For the record, the actual details of the trade are so absurdly complicated that all you will be permitted to know here is that the Caps got Shattenkirk).

But the fact is that, yet again, all the air rushed out of Wednesday’s trade deadline balloon for the hockey media, and the poor sods on set to babysit all the deal-lets and non-deals will weep bitterly as their phones spit out hour after hour of non-information.

At least that’s the way it is playing now. Maybe Pittsburgh will finally close that long-rumored (well, by me, anyway) Sidney Crosby-for-Phil Di Giuseppe deal, but that’s not the way to bet.

But the trade deadline has been slowly but surely dying as general managers find far greater advantage in making their deals away from the time crunch and the persistent phone calls from other general manager, agents and worst of all, media weasels.

For example, the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans broke the NBA trade deadline as well as the All-Star Game by doing the DeMarcus Cousins deal four days early and midway through the first half, in that order.

And though this wasn’t actually a trade, the Golden State Warriors broke the market back in July by maneuvering their way for the prize of the summer – Zaza Pachulia.

Oh, and the other guy.

In short, the general managers seem to have figured out the simplest way to foil the pressures of the trade deadline – by ignoring the deadline and acting ahead of time, creating their own spoiler alerts by spoiling everyone’s fun before they were fully alerted.

And that leaves the rest of us faced with an empty day of blather after we’ve all gone to the trouble of doubling down on beer and chips.

Ultimately the idea behind the coverage of a trade is to break the news of the trade whenever it happens. And the idea of the trade from the general manager’s view is to better the team and minimize the chance of being fired.

All laudable goals, by and large.

But a trade deadline without some recognizable trades is just another day when you can’t fake working, and who needs that?

What’s needed here then is a trade deadline with teeth and real tangible punishments for everyone involved. I mean, we have chips and guacamole to think of.

For instance, there is no reason why the leagues couldn’t install rules that say that no trade can be announced even to any of the principals (players, agents, medioids, et. al.) except on the day of the deadline. Any teams involved in a deal that breaks the embargo is fined a massive amount of the owners’ (as in both teams’ owners) money.

To make this work, the teams would have to agree no trade could be made between, say, Thanksgiving and the deadline. Or Christmas, depending on how you feel about tryptophan overdosing. But the point is, nothing could get done until the agreed-upon deadline, and it could only be announced to anyone on the day of the deadline.

This is profoundly unfair to the players, of course, but that little issue has never bothered management before when the alternative was money.

It is also not much fun for the media, which has to twiddle its opposables floating rumors that can’t be proven or disproven except on that one day when everyone works from midnight to midnight, wired to the eyelids on six-buck coffee and enough green tea to turn a gall bladder into a souvenir ash tray.

No, this is about making a worthwhile and ironclad trade deadline for the good of the sport, and the business.

Okay, this is about our amusement.

We all like trade deadlines. It gives order to the market, and it centers everyone’s focus on one hyper-adrenalized day to watch out for double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses from general managers wanting to jump each others’ action in search of their own personal Shattenkirks.

It spikes Verizon stock, it makes lots of business for movers and real estate vultures, it provides cheap and disposable fame for about two-thirds of the players in the league, and it makes everyone involved look like twitchy red-eyed zombies on television.

It beats the Bachelorette every time, because among other things it looks a lot more like parents do when they’ve been up all day and night with the colic farms.

In short, a trade deadline is a precious thing not to be discarded just because it’s inconvenient for a few suits and about-to-be-moved employees.

So yeah, Kevin Shattenkirk could have held another day or so. You know, for the good of the game.

 

Ahead of trade deadline, Sharks must decide on top line

Ahead of trade deadline, Sharks must decide on top line

SAN JOSE – Less than 48 hours before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday at noon, the Sharks’ brain trust has at least one important decision to make.

Are they comfortable rotating left wingers in and out of the Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski line, or should an upgrade be attempted via the trade market? There are a number of players said to be available that could provide the team with some forward depth and scoring punch ahead of the playoffs.

Seven different wingers have played on that so-called top line, none of them lasting more than one continuous stint there than Patrick Marleau from Nov. 21 – Jan. 3. 

In total, seven different players have started a game on that line, including Marleau (25 games), Tomas Hertl (13 games), Kevin Labanc (6 games), Mikkel Boedker (5 games), Timo Meier (4 games), Joel Ward (4 games) and Melker Karlsson (4 games). Injuries have played a role, of course, but it seems as if coach Pete DeBoer has been looking for someone to seize that position. 

Pavelski, though, didn’t seem overly worried about the ongoing alternation.

“We’ve had a few different players there, and I don’t think it’s a concern,” said the captain. “You’re always looking for chemistry and something set in stone if you can get it, but throughout a game, things change.”

DeBoer laid out what he’s looking for in a player to skate alongside Thornton and Pavelski, as well as the kind of player that wouldn’t fit in that role.

“You have to play [at Pavelski and Thornton’s] level and their work ethic,” said the coach. “They want the puck. They want to hunt the puck and want someone to get in there and retrieve pucks so that they can have possession. 

“I can tell you a guy who doesn’t fit would be a guy who is strictly a shooter, or kind of lets other people do the work and just goes to holes. They need somebody that’s going to work at their level and hunt the puck, so that’s got to be part of it.”

Labanc is the latest player to hold down that spot, starting there for the last four games and remaining there for Monday’s practice at Sharks Ice. Just 21 years old, Labanc has contributed a respectable seven goals and 18 points in his first 46 NHL games. Still, he hasn’t scored a goal in his last 22 games, and has just one assist and four total shots in the last four games.

It’s debatable whether the still-smallish Labanc is ready for the rigors of an NHL schedule on a full-time basis, which would make it dangerous for the Sharks to go into the postseason with someone like him in such a key position. DeBoer, though, praised the rookie’s recent efforts.

“I thought he’s done a good job. He’s got some of those [aforementioned] attributes,” DeBoer said. "He’s an offensive guy, [and] he thinks on their level offensively.”

Other teams in direct competition with the Sharks for a Western Conference title are adding pieces, particularly up front. Anaheim acquired scoring winger Patrick Eaves from Dallas, the Blackhawks brought in Detroit forward Tomas Jurco, and Minnesota gave up a haul to Arizona for center Martin Hanzal.

If the Sharks don’t make a move, they will likely go the whole season without bringing in a single player from the outside other than their young prospects. That would be unique, especially for a team that has championship aspirations.

Pavelski seemed to insinuate that he expects at least one body to arrive.

“Whoever we get, hopefully they’ll fill a little depth or add a little something, and we’ll go from there,” he said.

But if not?

“It doesn’t change anything if nothing happens, that’s for sure. We’re going to keep trying to get better.”