Saturday, July 7, 2012

NHL trade rumors: San Jose Sharks free agency inactivity fuels speculation -

July 4 of every year, the NHL free agency period goes through a fundamental shift.

Before that, it is a seller's market. Teams are unwilling to risk losing a major free agent and thus offer more. Those players expect to be shown they are valued and take the best offer available.

After they sign, competition for other players diminishes. Supply exceeds demand and it becomes a buyer's market.

That is when you get low-cost role-players that San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson specializes in. So why was his first call this year to Adam Burish?

Because he has no intention of signing a major free agent, so this was a way of letting Burish know he was wanted and convincing him not to even look at other offers.

But why would a GM that clearly needs a solid two-way forward, not just a grinder like Burish, have no intention of signing one? He has the cap spaceĆ¢€"about $3 million if he fills the rest of the vacant roster spots plus three scratched players with the restricted free agent tenders he has already extended.


It would appear he is saving that cap space for another of his big trades. That could mean Rick Nash, but considering Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson's demands thus far, he will likely require a player on Wilson's untouchable list (here is a link to my untouchables).

It is time for the Sharks to move on. Really. Please.

I have mentioned previous targets in this column that are no longer an option, fairly unlikely or well within reason before turning my attention to free agency. But there are other potential trade targets out there that the Sharks inactivity now permits time to cover.

One already suggested Thursday, July 5 by Samantha Gurash of Comcast Sports Net Bay Area is Michael Grabner.

Grabner was the other finalist with should-be Calder Trophy winner Logan Couture last summer. He has a reasonable four years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $3 million per year. He is a good skater and even in his "sophomore slump" season, he scored 24 goals.

He does not distribute the puck well (30 assists in two seasons), but the bigger obstacle is that the Sharks have little to offer the New York Islanders.

They are a franchise desperate for a playoff appearance and ever-so-close in the toughest division in hockey, so they will want a player who can perform for them right away. But they are a young team that is not going to want to sell that talent for Sharks veterans they might like to move before their stock drops.

One option Gurash mentioned was Ryane Clowe, who will be paid $3,625,000 in the last year of his deal. He is 29, so the Isles can count on him to be on the wing of a scoring line for the next few seasons.

However, neither team would benefit much from that trade.

The Sharks are a team that needs to win now. All they would really be trading is physicality for speed and puck distribution for goal-scoring. One can argue those things are in greater need in San Jose and that the Sharks get younger on that wing. But this gets them no closer to turning last season around, and since it is clear they are going to stay with this aging core a quick resurgence is needed.

The Isles would certainly need more from the Sharks. They would be giving up six years and face losing Clowe next summer while barely improving. It is quite possible that gap could be made up with prospects or picks, but why?

The better move would be to base the trade around Jason Demers heading to New York. He is a young player in the last year of a contract that pays a modest $1.25 million, and he will remain a restricted free agent, and thus should be affordable to re-sign for the Isles. They are looking to fill out their blue line and the Sharks have one more player than they can dress on that unit.

To offset the cap and talent imbalance, the Sharks can add T. J. Galiardi or James Sheppard to the ledger and wash their hands of one of those bad trades, consoling themselves that the traded player at least helped acquire a great talent. With the cap room the Sharks have been saving, they can easily absorb the extra $1 million or so in payroll the trades makes them take on.

The Sharks would thus have traded a projected fourth line forward for one who might make the second, giving up only blue line depth they might lose next season anyway. New York gets a developing starter for their blue line who can already help their power play and a developing checking line forward for a second line player, and frees up about $1 million in cap space.

That sounds win-win to me.

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