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Bold move time for Wilson
The Sharks need to fill some holes
1/8/12 - By Mike Lee -

The 2011-12 NHL season is almost half over, but there's no telling what you'll get out of the Sharks come playoff time. They sit atop the Pacific Division standings with a 23-11-4 record, trailing the Vancouver Canucks for the top record in the league by a mere 5 points. Those 5 points are a lot less daunting considering that San Jose has played 4 fewer games than the Canucks. Still, there's no telling what this roster will do once the playoffs start. Given that, is it time for GM Doug Wilson to make a bold move to solidify his lineup?

There's no shortage of big name players that are already rumored to be available. The most notable is Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, but Nash's contract may price the Sharks right out of the hunt. Columbus is incurring a $7.8 million cap hit for the big forward, which is one of the reasons he's likely going to be available.

The league's worst team has to justify the 12th highest payroll in the league, so dealing Nash's hefty contract makes sense for the Blue Jackets. Taking on that cap hit doesn't work for San Jose under current conditions.

The Sharks have about $1 million to play with, so taking on a contract worth almost $8 million would require them to purge some significant rostered players. Joe Thornton's $7 million is an accounting match, but Thornton isn't going anywhere.

Dan Boyle's $6.66 million cap hit is something Wilson might be able to part with, but the problem there is that Boyle has a no-trade clause.

Columbus isn't also looking to deal one big contract for another, especially if that means getting a defenseman that over 30 and on the downside of his career. Columbus is going to want a prospect or young regular rostered player in return.

Patrick Marleau is an interesting option, because he provides scoring and is a highly coveted player. His age becomes a factor, but he's not as old as Boyle and is a bona fide NHLer. Marleau's playoff past may be enough to tempt Wilson.

You have to give to get, so don't expect the Sharks to land a player of Nash's stature without giving up something in return. Joe Pavelski is another option. His cap impact is more attractive to a team like Columbus, coming in at $4 million per season. His upside is bigger than Boyle or Marleau, so he becomes a much more attractive option for Columbus, but Wilson is unlikely to deal any more of his younger talent after shipping Devin Setoguchi just last summer.

Draft picks are always an option, and given the Sharks propensity to draft late, dealing those doesn't mean they lose a top 10 pick. What they do lose is the ability to draft players that they can build around. Wilson has little to deal with in terms of prospects, because of the few high round draft picks to play with.

The one thing Wilson won't be, is predictable. Just when you think the Sharks are locked in, he pulls the trigger on a blockbuster. Just when you think the Sharks are poised to land a big player, they stand pat. Whatever the case, don't assume Wilson is sitting back and doing nothing. San Jose's top hockey operations executive is always weighing his options.

Outside of Nash, Jerome Iginla is another name that has been bandied about for a while. Iginla is another big contract player that is most likely available because of the size of the dollars associated with his contract and the fact that Iginla becomes a free agent after next season.

At 34, Iginla becomes a bit of a crap shoot. Goaltenders get better with age. 30+ year-old forwards that play a hard-nosed style tend to wear-out. Iginla isn't the same player that helped knock of the Sharks in the 2004 Western Conference Finals. He was in the prime of his career, and a league MVP candidate.

He's on pace for a 32 goal season, but his edge in the playoffs is what the Sharks covet. Question is, is there any of that grit left?

Wilson may be more inclined to fill holes with role players. Special teams is the most glaring hole in the Sharks arsenal, but don't count on them trying to find a power play quarterback anytime soon. That was the role Brent Burns was supposed to fill, so Wilson won't be inclined to replace that investment anytime soon.

Locking down the penalty kill is the most likely target for change. Colin White was supposed to help, but his play has been marginal a best, and with him on the shelf, a replacement is practical. Problem is, good penalty killers are available in bushels either.

The good news is, Wilson has a knack for landing role players. Let's just hope he doesn't give up the farm in order to fill that hole. You have to give to get, but he shouldn't be creating a long term hole in order to get the job done now.


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