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Roster still needs polishing
Prospects have small window to earn NHL jobs
9/8/10 - By Mike Lee -

Training camp is an opportunity for players to get back into the swing of things and for teams to get their rosters squared away for the upcoming season. The Sharks have to do all those things on an abridged schedule because of their European tour to kick off the regular season. One of the biggest questions that remains is what the opening night roster will look like.

San Jose appears to have all but four roster spots locked down. That assumes that they also move one of the three goaltenders that currently occupy a roster spot. That goaltender is most likely to be Thomas Greiss, who served as the Sharks backup last season.

Let’s take a look at the state of the roster:

Forwards—

Locks (10): Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Logan Couture, Scott Nichol, Jamal Mayers

Probable (1): Jamie McGinn

Bubble (3): Benn Ferriero, Cam MacIntyre, Frazer McLaren

Defensemen—

Locks (5): Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Niclas Wallin, Douglas Murray, Kent Huskins

Probable (1): Jason Demers

Bubble (2): Jay Leach, Derek Joslin

Goaltenders—

Locks (2): Antti Niemi, Antero Nittymaki

Assuming the roster consists of the locks and the probable players listed above, the logical breakdown would include 13 forwards, 8 defenseman and a pair of goaltenders. Even that scenario isn’t guaranteed, because GM Doug Wilson has started the season below the league maximum 23 roster players before.

If he does elect to start the season with 13 forwards, which means two spots are still up for grabs. Cam MacIntyre would be the odds on favorite to land one of those jobs for a couple of reasons. One, Wilson signed the 26-year old winger to a two-year contract and two his age and experience are tailor made to consume a roster spot, so that younger prospects can log regular minutes in places like Worcester.

Benn Ferriero got a taste of the NHL last October, but inconsistent play made his stay in San Jose short lived. Frazer McLaren is a more likely choice to take up a roster spot with the big club, because of his ability to drop the gloves.

With Jody Shelley’s departure at the trade deadline last March, the Sharks have been missing the toughness to protect their star players. McLaren can fill that role or share the duty with the likes of a Jamal Mayers.

The defensive side of the bench gets a little fuzzier. Much of what Wilson decides to do will be dictated by what he sees from Jason Demers and Derek Joslin in camp. Jay Leach will most likely serve as roster filler, while the prospects mature, but the younger Demers and Joslin are the Sharks defensive future. Nick Petrecki is the real defensive bright spot in the Sharks farm system, but it’s unlikely he’ll get at an everyday roster spot this season.

San Jose still also has a bit of a surplus in terms of cap space, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see Wilson acquire a solution as well. That’s more likely to happen to fill a defensive roster spot. New York Rangers restricted free agent Marc Staal has been reported to be a player on Wilson’s list. The Sharks only have $1.8 million in cap space to work with, so a deal for Staal would require San Jose to part with one of the bigger contracts currently on the books.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa is also an option, albeit a tougher situation to make work. The Canucks have 8 defenseman on their roster, all making over $1 million, but more importantly are $3.7 million over the salary cap. A deal for Bieksa would be tough to fit into the Sharks budget, because Bieksa’s cap hit is $3.75 million and the Sharks don’t have that much wiggle room. They can’t ship someone else’s contract to Vancouver because of the Canucks cap issues.

The free agent market is another possibility, but the pickings are slim. Former Sharks captain Owen Nolan threw out his own feeler last week by saying that he would love to return to his former team. It makes more sense for Nolan than the Sharks though. He lives in San Jose during the off-season, so it's convenient. He's also at the end of his career, so playing for a bona fide Cup contender is something that may be more of a priority for Nolan.

Problem is, Wilson may want to appropriate what little money he has left to a defenseman. The sharks are also trying to make opportunities available for their prospects, so Nolan eats up a roster spot. There's also the Patrick Marleau white elephant. It's been long rumored that Marleau didn't exactly take well to Nolan's personality when the two were teammates during Nolan's initial tenure in San Jose. Do you bring back a personality that could potentially negatively affect your team's biggest goal scoring threat?

Given all of this, it’s more likely that you’ll see a youngster from the Sharks farm system manning the back line this season. At least to begin the season.


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