Rumor Roundup: Is it time to blow up the San Jose Sharks?

Lyle Richardson
San Jose Sharks (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks stunning first-round collapse to the Los Angeles Kings has some observers speculating over a roster shakeup. The San Jose Mercury News’ Mark Purdy believes the Sharks lack “anything-to-win” players. He calls upon GM Doug Wilson to be “cruel and bold” by either trading skill or overpaying via free agency to bring in such players.

Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal notes Wilson wants to bring back his coaching staff. Matheson wonders if Wilson might try to move captain Joe Thornton despite his no-trade clause. Matheson also believes the final year of oft-injured Martin Havlat’s contract ($5 million cap hit) will be bought out. If the Sharks decide not to re-sign pending free agent blueliner Dan Boyle, Matheson concludes the Sharks will be among the suitors for Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen if he hits the free agent market in July.

Kevin Kurz of csnbayarea.com doubts Thornton or Patrick Marleau will be moved, as they’ve recently re-signed three-year deals, each worth more than $6 million annually with no-trade clauses. He doesn’t see cornerstone players Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic being shopped.

Given Boyle’s age (37), Kurz doubts he’ll be re-signed. And in calling Antti Niemi’s performance against the Kings “abysmal,” Kurz speculates a goaltending change could be in order. Niemi has one year at $3.8 million left on his contract. If they can find a taker for Niemi, Kurz suggests promoting Alex Stalock as their new starting goalie and acquiring an experienced backup.

If Wilson wants to make a significant move, Kurz believes Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns could become trade candidates. With Pavelski coming off a 41-goal season, Kurz feels this would be the best time to shop him. And he suggests Burns might be a better fit in the Eastern Conference, where teams play a less-structured style.

Pavelski, Burns and Niemi seem the best trade options if Wilson wants to go that route. Moving them would also free up cap space to take on some of those “do-anything-to-win” types. The Sharks currently have more than $57 million invested in 16 players for 2014-15. Based on a projected cap ceiling of $71.1 million, they would have $13 million to resign free agents like Boyle, Stalock, Jason Demers and Tommy Wingels or replace them with better options.

As Kurz noted, Pavelski’s new five-year, $30-million contract (with a modified no-trade clause) kicks in July 1. Shopping him before then would improve Wilson’s trade options, as well as free up valuable cap space. Burns’ size (6-foot-5, 230-pounds) and versatility would prove attractive for clubs seeking either a power forward or a physical puck-moving defenseman, though his modified no-trade clause limits trade partners.

Shopping Niemi could be risky, especially if they fail to find a suitable replacement. St. Louis’ Ryan Miller and Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller will be free agents in July. Stalock has promise but has yet to prove himself as an NHL starter. It might be best to keep that duo intact for another season, see if either goalie improves and, if not, shop for an upgrade near the trade deadline.

Havlat is an obvious choice for a compliance buyout. The Sharks have never bought out a player’s contract before, but there’s a first time for everything. Havlat might be willing to waive his no-trade clause, but his salary and long injury history hurt his trade value.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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