Cap casualties or trade bait?

It’s that time of year.  Not when young men dream of love, nor the winter weary of the blooming spring.  But the approach of the trade deadline and the preparation for what a team will do in the off season with re-signing and fitting under the cap.

The Sharks have 15 players currently on the NHL roster signed for next season.  $34.45m for 9 forwards, $21.93m for 5 defensemen and $3m for one goalie.  (Not including recent recalls.)  Of the seven expiring contracts, 3 are UFAs (Brown, Zubrus, Stalock), four are RFAs (Hertl, Nieto, Demelo, Tennyson) — perhaps deserving a raise. Expiring ELS deals for Hertl and Nieto.  (In the rest of the organization, six RFAs and six UFAs with expiring NHL contracts.  And six expiring AHL contracts.)

With the buyout of Burish on the books for one more season, the Sharks have $60m (less $200) allocated against the cap for the 2016-17 season, with five+ more contracts to (re-)sign and/or prospects to promote for the NHL roster.  The NHL minimum contract for 16-17 is $575k.

The 15-16 cap is $74.1m.  There is some speculation that the 16-17 cap could be reduced by up to $4m due to reduction in Canadian dollar which decreases revenue (HRR is calculated in US dollars). Which gives the Sharks about $10m for those five contracts/promotions.

Now comes the hard part: which players with expiring contracts will be retained/re-signed, and which won’t.   Plus who gets the $$s.  And, are there players with remaining term on their respective contracts that no longer fit in the Sharks roster? (Any players “out there” that the Sharks might want to acquire?)

First things first. Potential trade bait at the trade deadline. Which expiring contracts probably won’t be re-signed/retained?  Any players with term (or RFAs) that would make sense to trade? My partial list:

  • D Matt Tennyson (RFA) – a good player, a sentimental choice as the first Jr Shark to make the NHL Shark roster, but he’s been in the press box for more than half the games this season. UPDATE: With the injury 2/22 (likely a concussion), it’s unlikely he’ll be traded.  (Although it would have been weird as the AHL Barracuda are having his Bobblehead night 3/5.)
  • F Mike Brown (UFA) – utility 4th liner, pinch fighter. Changing culture means his role is disappearing.
  • F Ben Smith (UFA) – demoted to AHL, he has found his scoring touch, again, but just does not seem to fit into DeBoer’s plans.
  • G Al Stalock (UFA) – seems to have a confidence issue; good enough for a little work, but team has not been able to rely on him to take some load off Jones.
  • F Raffi Torres (UFA) – demoted to AHL, has lost a lot of speed and strength from multiple surgeries/procedures and no durability (playing perhaps 1 game in 3). Update: Traded 2/22 as part of cap differential for Polak/Spaling acquisition. Torres waived his NTC, but remains with the AHL Barracuda.
  • F Ben Smith (AHL, UFA) – has rediscovered his offense in the AHL after clearing waivers and being demoted. Does not seem to fit in with DeBoer’s coaching; could use a new home.
  • F Frazer McLaren (AHL, UFA) – has been out (what seems like months) since a fight. Concussion is suspected but has not been confirmed.
  • G Aaron Dell (AHL, UFA VI) – has actually outplayed Grosenick this season. Have to wonder if the organization might retain him instead.
  • G Troy Grosenick (AHL; one more year) – has been decent; might end up being a throw in if the Sharks acquire a goalie (otherwise seems to be penciled in as the NHL backup for 16-17).

Zubrus has played well under DeBoer, so I think it unlikely he’ll be traded (and could even get an extension).  Marleau has another year under contract; but I don’t think the Sharks would be able to get fair value nor replace the role/offense he brings. Hertl and Nieto are RFAs, but most likely to be re-signed. Demelo is coming off his ELS, and I expect him to be re-signed. Thornton leads the team in offense; no way to get fair value in a trade.

Stollery, Lerg, McCarthy, Haley have been good vets in the AHL.

Carpenter, Cundari, Emanuelsson, Doremus and Langlois have all played well and will probably be retained.

If the Sharks do make a trade, will it be to pare down the roster, or shore up a need?  Or both? Various pundits have postulated that the Sharks “need” more D depth (like 5th defenseman) and/or a better backup goalie.

UPDATE: Sharks acquired D Roman Polak and F Nick Spaling. Addresses their D depth and forward depth.

That trade may answer the depth issue, but not a better backup goalie.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson indicates that the organization plans to “replace” those two picks given away in the 2017 and 2018 draft for Polak and Spaling in the future.  So, even if the needs are filled, some of the “trade bait” players may wind up getting a few more draft picks (or prospects) down the road.