As is the case every season around this time of year, trade rumors are circulating as the NHL trade deadline approaches. At 3 p.m. EST on March 5, a transaction freeze will be put in effect for the remainder of the season. This gives teams less than a week to make the final tweaks to their rosters. Though the low salary cap this year makes it particularly difficult for clubs to make moves, it’s safe to assume that we’ll still see a flurry of deals go down in the coming days.
There are more marquee players on the market right now than there have been in quite some time, which could make for an especially intriguing trade deadline. It was recently revealed that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis wants to be dealt to the New York Rangers, while reports out of New York continue to indicate that Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are available.
Just this week, reports surfaced that the Vancouver Canucks have been looking into trading Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler. There are even rumors suggesting that Kesler asked to be dealt some time ago. Some smaller names are also in play, like Buffalo’s Steve Ott and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Nikolai Kulemin.
Will the San Jose Sharks be in the running for any of these players, though? Probably not. The club still needs to activate forwards Logan Couture and Raffi Torres from long-term injured reserve. Once they do, the combined cap hit of those two players will count against the team’s salary cap. This would leave the Sharks with virtually no cap space with which to add a roster player.
Unless, of course, they shed some salary. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the club might consider moving a player like Marty Havlat or Tyler Kennedy to free up some cap space. Havlat carries a $5 million cap hit and has been deadweight this season, so he wouldn’t be a significant loss. However, it’s unlikely that any team would be willing to take on his contract. Kennedy’s cap hit comes in at $2.35 million, making him easier to move.
If the Sharks do decide to make some room on the roster, who would they target in the trade market? They’re loaded at center, so Kesler and Ott would likely be out of the question. They certainly don’t need a goalie, so that eliminates Miller. The team could use an additional scoring winger, so Vanek or Sabres winger Matt Moulson would be good fits, but the asking price for both players might be too high. The Sharks boast one of the weakest prospect pools in the league, so it’s doubtful that they’d want to deal any high draft picks or top young players for a rental.
The most urgent need in San Jose is a left-handed defenseman, of which there are only a few believed to be available. Could Vancouver’s Edler be a target? Possibly, but the Canucks would be fools to trade the Swedish rearguard to a division rival. Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov is another option, and he might be the best fit for the Sharks. The team needs more firepower on the back end, and he can certainly provide it.
But like Vanek and Moulson, Markov would just be a rental and would cost the team some quality young assets that they may be unwilling to part with.
It’s more reasonable to presume that the Sharks will approach this trade deadline much like they did last year’s. GM Doug Wilson opted to avoid the big names and acquire two under-the-radar pieces in Torres and Scott Hannan. It was a strategy that paid off as Wilson paid a low price for two players who have since become key contributors. Expect San Jose to take that path again this season.