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.

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

SAN JOSE – There are no glaring holes for the San Jose Sharks to fill ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline on March 1.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is a notorious tire-kicker, and he’s surely working the phones these days to see if there’s anything out there that could help his hockey club, which has a comfortable five-point lead on the Pacific Division midway through its bye week.

“We’ll see, but we do feel really good about this group,” Wilson told CSN earlier this month. “We believe in our players and we believe in our guys on the Barracuda, because they’ve earned that.

“Having said that, our history speaks for itself. If there’s a way to help this hockey team or add something, we’ve always done it, and we’ll always explore it.”

So, what might the Sharks be exploring? There are two areas that make the most sense – a backup goaltender, and a scoring winger.

* * *

No question Aaron Dell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. He’s 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in 12 games, and his .953 even-strength save percentage is tops in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.

Still, it’s unknown if Dell would be able to handle the day-to-day grind, if anything were to happen to Jones. Even in the minors last season when he earned the number one job with the Barracuda, he wasn’t playing three and four games a week due to the AHL’s Pacific Division having fewer games than the rest of the league. He’s also not been overly tested at the NHL level – of Dell’s 10 starts, only one has come against a team currently in playoff position, and the Calgary Flames are only barely in the second Wild Card spot.

There are some goalies thought to be trade bait as pending unrestricted free agents. They include Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavalec, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, or Philadelphia goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. All could likely be gotten for some combination of young players and/or draft picks.

But is it worth it for the Sharks to make a move for a player that might not even be needed in the postseason? According to one NHL analyst, the Sharks should just take their chances with the inexperienced North Dakota product.

“I probably wouldn’t put a whole lot of resources in [finding a backup goalie],” NBCSN analyst Keith Jones told CSN on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast. “If Martin Jones was injured you’d have a real problem, it would be tough to find a goalie to replace what he brings to the table. I know they tried James Reimer last year, and the book is out on him. … I’m not sure that that’s a major upgrade on Aaron Dell.”

That said, Keith Jones would like to see Martin Jones – who’s on pace to play 69.5 games – get more time off after the schedule resumes. That means increased playing time for Dell.

“I think you might just want to take a chance with your backup a little more frequently,” Jones said. “You may want to sacrifice a few games along the way. [Dell] gains some experience, and Jones gets some rest.”

The impression here is that the Sharks will probably stick with Dell. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has been nothing short of glowing in his reviews of Dell lately, as well he should be. The goalie has earned his place on this team, and none of the other goalies that the Sharks could acquire would be obvious upgrades at this stage of the season.

* * *

A much stronger case can be made that the Sharks are in need of another scoring winger. 

While the offense has been more dangerous in recent weeks than it was over the first half of the season, it still doesn’t look as effective as it was last season going into the playoffs, when it finished fourth in the league. Yes, the power play has been relatively power-less, but there’s more to it than that.

Mikkel Boedker has been a disappointment after signing a four-year deal as a free agent, and was benched yet again on Sunday. Joonas Donskoi, still out with what looks like a shoulder injury, hasn’t taken that next step after his strong playoff run last season. Joel Ward is off his scoring pace from last year. Patrick Marleau has been outstanding, but remains streaky. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have done some nice things as rookies, but neither of them has “arrived” yet, to borrow a word commonly used by DeBoer. Nikolay Goldobin failed in his two-game tryout last week, too.

Finding a winger to play on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line should be a priority, as DeBoer has tried seven different wingers there this season without finding a permanent fit. 

Among the veterans that could be available are Dallas’ Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves, Arizona’s Shane Doan, Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Thomas Vanek, or even Vancouver’s Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen, if the club is looking for a more agitating type.

Sharp is perhaps the most intriguing name on that list. Although he’s been hurt off and on this season and his numbers are down on a bad Dallas team, he’s a veteran scorer that has won three Stanley Cups as part of Chicago’s dynasty. He’s an obvious upgrade over the players that have rotated through the Thornton line.

Bringing in one of those aforementioned forwards would require some salary cap juggling (especially Sharp, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit) and perhaps a salary from the current roster going the other way, as the Sharks don’t have a whole lot of room right now. But it’s worth exploring, as a consistent offensive attack should be this team’s biggest worry right now with seven weeks until the postseason.

* * *

If the Sharks don’t make a move, DeBoer and company are still confident with the team in the dressing room. After all, most of those players were a part of the team’s run last season, when the Sharks were just two wins from capturing the Stanley Cup.

“For us, it’s not whether a piece comes in or whether we don’t bring any pieces in, I think we’re confident in our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s about us…playing to our identity for as long a stretch as is possible, because that’s what wins in the playoffs. Whether we don’t do anything or whether a piece comes in here, I don’t think that mindset changes.”

Justin Braun said: “Management is going to do what they’re going to do, but if they don’t do anything, we have confidence with everyone in here to get the job done.”

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

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USATSI

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.