All eggs in the Tavaras basket
As well all know at this point, Doug Wilson is all-in on John Tavares being the centerpiece of the San Jose Sharks going forward. Wilson, and a contingent of Sharks brass including Hasso Plattner, met and pitched the Sharks to the pending unrestricted free agent. The Sharks were in a group of six teams to make a pitch. Fans of those teams can tell you a number of reasons why he will pick their team over yours. Some of these arguments make a lot of sense while others are are pure hyperbole that makes fandom so fun. The question none of these teams want to ask is what plan B is, and for the Sharks, this is a bigger question for them than other teams.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, don’t successfully sign Tavares, they will have to settle for their young core of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. I will be sure to play the tiniest violin for them. The Sharks on the other hand, while not old, do not have similar impact players in that age group. For the Sharks, signing Tavares could be the difference between serious contention and middling in the middle of the pack, good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to win it all. So if Saturday night comes and Tavares decides, as many expect, to stay with the Islanders or he makes it to Sunday and San Jose is the bridesmaid, what do the Sharks do?
Sharks Core Locked Up Long Term
The Sharks will make news on July 1st regardless of if they sign Tavares or not. Logan Couture is reported to have an 8-year contract extension ready to be signed. The soonest it can be signed is July 1st and, with this deal signed, Couture will join Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Martin Jones and Evander Kane on long-term deals. Tavares, if signed, would likely join this list of players. One would also have to wager a guess that Couture’s contract would be at least equal to that of Evander Kane. Doug Wilson has publically stated that there will be no rebuild in San Jose so there is a plan in place.
The Sharks will obviously have two paths to further add to the team; free agency and through trade. Trade will obviously be difficult for the Sharks as they’ve already let a number of roster players go to free agency or left via trade. Below, in my opinion, is the Sharks current roster in tiers of trade-ability.
All of these players are either signed or likely signed to long-term deals for a reason. They are a significant part of Doug Wilsons plans moving forward. I would definitely hear arguments as to why Hertl should be in the extremely unlikely category.
The Extremely Unlikely
Maybe this is sentiment, but I have a hard time seeing Joe Pavelski in another sweater. While some will immediately bring up Patrick Marleau, I’d remind them it was Marleau’s choice to leave. Also, good luck getting value for a player who can narrow down his destinations to 3 possible teams. In Joakim Ryan, the Sharks have a steady defenseman entering the prime of his career who will continue to be inexpensive. This will be important to the Sharks going forward with so many long-term contracts in place. Doug Wilson seems incredibly high on Timo Meier, his highest draft pick since Logan Couture. I don’t think he is completely untouchable, but I imagine that the return would have to be significant.
For The Right Price
Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon are both due new contracts at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season. With all the contract extensions, it’s hard to see room for both players under the cap I feel both would likely fetch. This is especially true for Justin Braun whose right-hand shot would be a hot commodity on the open market even at the age of 33. I’m sure I’ll get arguments about Kevin Labanc, but I can’t help but feel based on what the Sharks have to offer a team via trade, Kevin Labanc could be a hold-your-nose addition to sweetening a deal. Chris Tierney is a bottom six center on a team that has a pipeline clogged with bottom six centers. At some point, he is going to have to be shed for cap considerations and his value has never been higher.
The Spare Parts
This is not a knock on these players, but they are easily replaceable via trade, free agency, or the prospect pipeline with players like Vincent Praplan and Antti Suomela likely vying for spots in training camp. They would most likely be throw-ins rather than the key moving part of a big trade. Non-NHL Prospects could also be included in this list as well as draft picks. The Sharks making a play for Taveras shows that they are in a win-now mode. If Tavares does not sign with the Sharks, they will continue to be in a win-now mode in order to get the best value out of their long-term deals so I can’t see how any prospect would be off the table.
Next: Trade Targets