SAN JOSE – An improving health situation, a generally successful season to this point, a reluctance to part with any young prospects or draft picks and a lack of wiggle room under the salary cap all resulted in a sleepy trade deadline for the San Jose Sharks.
The team that general manager Doug Wilson had on Wednesday morning is the same assemblage he will go to battle with for the final 19 games of the regular season and playoffs, as the noon PST deadline came and went without a single transaction by the club.
Health was the most important factor, according to Wilson.
“We came into the deadline with the approach that we believed in our players,” Wilson said. “A lot of our decisions were impacted on health issues, and several of them were clarified in the last little while.”
Raffi Torres’ return from knee surgery has been encouraging, as the winger has three goals in three games and has skated well, including Tuesday night against Carolina. There were concerns over Matt Nieto after the rookie blocked a slap shot on Feb. 5 against Dallas and missed the final game before the break. Nieto, too, looks fine, and scored twice against New Jersey on Sunday.
“If some of our guys hadn’t played to the level expected or weren’t healthy, we would have had a completely different approach to this deadline,” Wilson said.
Tomas Hertl, though, is still on the shelf for the foreseeable future. He skated again for about 20 minutes on Wednesday, but it was a very light skate. Wilson didn’t offer any sort of timetable on the promising forward who had knee surgery on Dec. 31, but according to a source, it's unlikely Hertl will play again in the regular season. He hasn't yet been ruled out of the playoffs.
Wilson addressed the void that Hertl, who found a home on a line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, leaves.
“There’s a young man that stepped up pretty strongly in Matt Nieto, and certainly you’ve got Joe Pavelski,” Wilson said. “I think the players that have really showed what they could do during the times earlier in the season when we didn’t have all our players, really earned equity with [head coach Todd McLellan] and the way we want to play.”
The general manager credited the team’s coaching staff numerous times for getting the Sharks to where they are now despite some significant obstacles. Along with Torres and Hertl, the Sharks lost center Logan Couture for 16 games before the Olympic break, and were without fourth-liner Adam Burish until early February. Tyler Kennedy, Marty Havlat and Brad Stuart (currently still out with an upper body injury) have also had stints on the injured list.
If there’s a benefit to not adding any new blood, it’s that each and every player on the Sharks roster already knows his teammates well, and is aware of how he has to play to be successful in McLellan’s system.
“We travel more than anybody else, so we don’t get a lot of quality practice time,” Wilson said. “I think what happens when you have a compressed schedule, a lot of games and not a lot of practices, that impacts more your integration.
“I think it is a factor. You decide when you’re bringing somebody in you’ve only got  games left, and not many practices. It’s a challenge sometimes.”
Wilson categorized this year’s trade deadline as a rental market, and didn’t want to give up a player like Hertl, 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller, or his 2014 first rounder in order to gain a player that would only depart in the offseason.
“Everybody wanted young players,” Wilson said of his discussions with other general managers. “We’re not going to move a Tomas Hertl, a [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic, [Justin] Braun or [Tommy] Wingels, or whoever I’m forgetting in this conversation. … We aren’t in a position where we really wanted to move first round picks. At the same point, we want to win, and we think this group has certainly played at the level we wanted to. We weren’t going to sacrifice things just to make a change to look like we did something.”
“There’s a trust and respect to what people have earned with how they’ve played. Guys in that room we believe in, because they’ve earned it.”