As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

SAN JOSE – The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away on March 1. It’s highly unlikely that the Sharks, who are coming off of their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance and are in first place in the Pacific Division, will make any blockbuster transactions or overhaul the roster.

The likeliest place they would make a move, though, would be at the backup goaltender position. Although Aaron Dell has been outstanding in his first year, with a 6-3-1 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, there is a thought that the Sharks should find a netminder that has a little more NHL experience in case something happens to Martin Jones. They did it when they brought in James Reimer last season, allowing Jones some valuable time off down the stretch, and it might make sense for them to do it again.

In the dressing room and on the ice, though, the confidence in Dell is high and grows with every outing. Last Saturday in Philadelphia in his most recent game, when Dell stole the Sharks a point in a 2-1 overtime loss, coach Pete DeBoer gave the 27-year-old his most ringing endorsement to date.

“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie so far,” DeBoer said on Feb. 11. “Those are decisions that Doug [Wilson] makes, but in my mind, that’s not an issue right now for us.”

Dell, speaking on Thursday after an optional practice at Sharks Ice, was aware of DeBoer’s comments.

“It’s an honor to get some compliments like that from a guy like him,” Dell said. “He’s right, though, that it’s Doug Wilson’s decision in the end. Me and him have no control over that either way, but it’s nice to get a compliment like that from him.”

So, what does Wilson think? At the beginning of the month, the general manager was asked his opinion on how Dell has handled his first season in the NHL. 

“A big part of it is, do his teammates believe in him and play for him? Yes, they do,” Wilson told CSN on Feb. 2. “Aaron has come in and given us some big wins at key times. We believe in Aaron.”

Is it a risk going into the playoffs with a backup that has hardly any NHL experience, though?

“What you’re referring to is the comfort you have with the unknown. When you have a comfort with somebody that you know well, that the teammates and coaches know, that makes it much more comfortable,” Wilson said. 

“We’ll see what transpires between now and then. As I’ve said, we always explore any ways we can add to this hockey team.”

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The Sharks are fortunate that Jones has remained healthy this season, although some fatigue may be setting in. The starting goalie has seen his save percentage drop from .924 in November, to .916 in December, to .911 in January to just .882 so far in February. He has started 49 of 58 games, and those declining save percentages seem to indicate he’s been playing too much.

If Dell ends up being the permanent backup, there’s a good chance he’ll get more action than he’s seen so far, as the Sharks saw how valuable it was for Jones to rest up before the playoffs last spring when Reimer started eight of the final 19 games.

After the bye week from Feb. 20-24, the Sharks have 22 games over the final 43 days of the season. Asking Jones to play more than 13-15 of those would be a risk.

Dell believes he can handle more responsibility if need be.

“With every game I think I get some more experience, and get a little more comfortable,” he said. “I think if I was playing more regularly that would come a little quicker.”

Justin Braun expressed confidence that Dell could even handle the number one role, too, if it ever came to that.

“He’s an older guy, he’s been around the leagues and he’s probably learned a lot over the years doing that and [knowing] how to win and handle different situations,” Braun said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s one of those guys that’s going to get rattled or flustered or anything. He’s just going to keep going and doing his job, and that’s a nice thing to have back there.”

DeBoer said: “Every time we [put] him in there he’s found a way to have success or help us win or play well. That’s all you can ask. For me, you don’t overthink those things. He’s getting the job done, and deserves to be here.”

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”