2021-22 San Jose Sharks: NHL’s Most Dangerous Team, Part 2

2021-22 San Jose Sharks
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In the first part of this two-part series, we discussed the 2021-22 San Jose Sharks and the season-changing players they can trade. With several very good players, the Sharks are a uniquely dangerous team. Not to themselves, but to every team in the hunt for this season’s Stanley Cup.

As is the case at this time of the NHL season, most trades feature a ‘now’ for ‘later’ scenario. One team gets assets that help now, the trade partner gets assets that help later. The Sharks have great ‘now’ assets.

The players we identified include James Reimer, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture. With this level of talent available to trade, can the Sharks determine who wins the Stanley Cup? It is very possible, which means there is an extreme premium the Sharks can extract from their trade partners.

2021-22 San Jose Sharks: A Shocking Trade?

With the six key trade names are out there, what can the Sharks do? What can they expect in return? Here are some ideas.

We’ll start big: trade both Meier and Hertl together. The duo plays well together and can instantly change a team from good to elite. In most cases, the biggest risk with a trade deadline move is the integration of the player with the new team. By trading two players who know each other well and play on the same line, not only are the integration risks small, but there’s proven chemistry. It is the sort of deal where the acquiring team gets more than the sum of the parts.

It might make sense to add very affordable winger Alexander Barabanov (with a $1 million cap cost) into this deal, so it packages the entire line.

The idea of a strong team acquiring a plug-and-play top line near the trade deadline seems crazy. But is it? Can any team actually afford both of the major pieces, Hertl and Meier? Yes. There is actually a long list.

Six teams are capable of swinging a deal. If you are the general manager of a team in the Stanley Cup hunt, you don’t want to be the guy who misses out on getting this duo (or trio if they want the whole line).

Six Teams Who Can Make the Deal

First up is the Calgary Flames. They can trade Tyler Pitlick and Milan Lucic to the Sharks for Hertl and Meier. The Sharks can retain half the cap hit on either Meier or Hertl and the numbers work. But obviously, the Sharks don’t simply give away these players for far lesser players without asking for draft picks. If the Flames want a Stanley Cup, these are the guys who can deliver it.

The asking price? Six first round draft picks. Stanley Cups aren’t cheap.

If Calgary doesn’t want a Cup, the Florida Panthers might. There’s even an added upside to a deal with Florida – Sharks fans around the world will celebrate if Joe Thornton hoists a Stanley Cup in what’s likely his final chance at playing for the big prize. Once again, the asking price is six first round picks for the duo. The Panthers can give up Radko Gudas and Frank Vatrano, with the Sharks, once again, eating cap space as needed. Perhaps the Panthers can give up fewer top picks if they part with Spencer Knight, the 20-year-old netminder with elite upside.

Maybe you’ve heard, Stanley Cups aren’t cheap.

The Minnesota Wild have some cap space to work with. They can give up Cam Talbot for James Reimer as part of the deal (Reimer being a better goalie and about $1.5 million less costly) plus Victor Rask. Once again, the Sharks retain salary and the cap numbers work. And the Wild have a new top line.

The Carolina Hurricanes can do this, too. They’d need to part with middle-tier players like Jesper Fast, Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Nino Niederreiter. But once again, the numbers work.

The New York Rangers might be the most intriguing option. They have cap space this season which disappears next season when Adam Fox’s nearly $9 million raise kicks in. The Nashville Predators are another team having a strong season, and they have plenty of cap space.

Six Teams, No Sweat

At least six teams can make this happen without breaking a sweat. At least one team in each division. This means a trade can impact any potential playoff team. This means every team not making a deal with the Sharks can begin to sweat.

Of the six, Calgary currently projects to 100 points for the season, the other five teams mentioned project between 105 and 120 points. If you’re any of these teams, the very last thing you want to see is one of these other teams make that trade instead of you. Teams failing to make the deal can go from a Stanley Cup favourite to an early round victim.

This has ‘bidding war’ written all over it.

2021-22 San Jose Sharks, Player By Tradable Player

We’ve described deals for Hertl and Meier. What might the Sharks get for the others on the list?

Erik Karlsson, with considerable retained salary, can get a first rounder. The risks are there for an acquirer, but the talent remains elite. Brent Burns can garner that as well, perhaps with some salary retention by the Sharks.

Nashville would be a fit for either defenceman, with the Preds possibly offering a lesser blueliner in return for cap purposes. Carolina could trade one of their aforementioned forwards along with veteran Ian Cole for either of the Sharks defenders and make the cap work. In either case, the Sharks collect a first round selection while their trade partners receive a massive talent upgrade.

James Reimer is less likely to get the team a first rounder, though given his highly favourable contract, it might be possible. More likely, the Sharks can do the sort of trade they did when they traded Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning (which worked out incredibly well for Tampa Bay). They traded the player and their third round pick in return for a first round pick. A goalie swap with the Colorado Avalanche could work here. The Avs upgrade in the net for less money, while the Sharks upgrade a middle round pick to a first round pick.

And there is Logan Couture. A first rounder for the Sharks captain would be a steal for whoever gets him. The Boston Bruins can trade Craig Smith and Nick Foligno for Couture and fit the deal under their cap.

In any of these trades, if the Sharks have to wait an extra year or two for the first rounder, that’d be fine. The team needs a stream of talent, not a surge. This is a process, not an event. Sooner is better, but ‘immediate’ is not a necessity if a short wait gets more overall value.

The 2021-22 San Jose Sharks Decision

The San Jose Sharks are a team headed nowhere good, no time soon. This isn’t some doom and gloom scenario, just reality. The Sharks can dwell in mediocrity for a long time. Or they can take a hit now and build towards a very bright future over the next 3-5 years. This is a crucial decision. It seems like an easy call, but the team has been reluctant to embrace reality. No doubt, the Sharks will make their trade partners happy, as all the trades described significantly increase their Cup chances.

Several aggressive moves can transform the team’s longer term prospects. The Sharks can expect high draft selections with their own picks in each of the next few seasons. Selections in the top 10 overall, with perhaps some in the top five. Taking the aggressive rebuild approach described here, the Sharks can add a lot of high draft picks. How many? It’s possible the team adds up to 10 additional first round draft picks over the remainder of this decade. There is potential for an enormous talent influx into San Jose.

Sharks Can Move Forward

The 2021-22 San Jose Sharks have some excellent talent, but they simply don’t have depth. The three forwards mentioned as trade pieces all have at least 34 points for the season. The fourth leading scorer among the team’s forwards is at 23 and by the time it gets to sixth, it is just 15 points. For comparison, the Panthers have seven forwards with 30 or more points. The two Sharks defencemen mentioned have 26 and 30 points respectively. The third best on the team is 11. For comparison, the Wild have six defencemen with 13 or more points.

The Sharks are a team with little to gain in the short term, and lots of needs for the long term. Couple the talent they have with a willingness to make big trades, and the Sharks can dramatically change the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs. There’s a very good chance they determine the victor. Which should terrify the entire playoff field.

The Sharks do not play again until Valentine’s Day. There is plenty of time for the team to find the trading partners which maximize the return to the organization. And perhaps determine this season’s Stanley Cup champion.

Which makes the 2021-22 San Jose Sharks the league’s most dangerous team.

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