Sharks should consider trades, bold experiments to turn things around

Sharks should consider trades, bold experiments to turn things around
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When it comes to NHL rebuilds, there are teams who seemingly live in denial, like the Ducks. Every now and then, a team such as the Coyotes actually exceeds expectations. Then there’s the Sharks, a team that (deep down) might prefer to rebuild, but could just be flat-out stuck.

Be sure to cue the “Jaws” theme as you scroll through the Sharks’ page at Cap Friendly, because you won’t find an NHL team with bigger bloat. Add in Evander Kane‘s ugly situation, and reports about fractured relationships with teammates, and the situation looks more and more like a disaster movie.

Is there any room for a happy ending, then?

Frankly, the 2021-22 Sharks don’t look that different from the recent, wildly disappointing groups from recent seasons. Yes, they moved from Martin Jones, but it’s unclear if James ReimerAdin Hill can transform their goaltending from a weakness to a true strength. In most cases, the Sharks are simply hoping that the bad things that happened before won’t keep happening.

So, where are the Sharks stuck, what are some trades/departures that are more realistic, and how might they improve what they currently have? Let’s attack this monster from multiple angles.

Kane, Hertl, and more pressing Sharks trade considerations

During the offseason, we’ve heard about the Sharks having little luck trying to trade Evander Kane. There have also been rumblings about Tomas Hertl, and murmurs about Timo Meier.

If Sharks management is self-aware, they really shouldn’t close the door on any trade possibilities, with the potential exception being the rare impact prospect, such as William Eklund. Instead, the question should be about when they should trade a player, not if.

  • Hertl turns 28 in November, and enters a contract year this season. Even as a player whose all-around skill is sorely underrated, the Sharks must expect Hertl to get a nice raise from his current $5.625M cap hit. Making that investment in such a messy situation screams of added more sunk costs to a drowning group. So, instead, it’s imperative to sell as high as possible in a Hertl trade. With just a three-team no-trade clause, that could be difficult. On the other hand, does Hertl really want to linger in this bad situation for a full season?

It’s a delicate situation, and the Sharks don’t have the greatest recent track record of threading this needle. They need to get this one right — and that almost certainly means waving goodbye to one of the few players they employ who exceeds his contract value.

[Click here for more on the Sharks’ conundrum regarding possibly trading Hertl]

  • Possibly trading Timo Meier is tricky, too.

When Meier signed his four-year, $24M contract in 2019, it looked like a steal. It’s been a bumpy couple of seasons for both the Sharks and Meier, who is now 24.

Trading Meier now would probably translate to selling low — he’s better than he’s looked. Maybe a lot better. Eventually, the Sharks may still need to accept that a Meier trade is the wisest long-term move. (Unless everything just kind of … works out this season.)

  • At 30 years old, with an array of off-the-ice issues,* Evander Kane’s $7M cap hit runs through 2024-25. His situation is one of several Sharks scenarios where you just sort of shrug your shoulders. There aren’t many clean, easy answers.

* – And some on-the-ice ones, too. He has a penchant for taking bad penalties, for instance.

Sharks in quite a pickle with Vlasic, Karlsson, and others

Kane’s situation straddles the line between the previous section (Sharks who are still producing at or near their prime levels) and this current one (contracts San Jose simply might not be able to trade away). Naturally, his situation is complex for different reasons, yet it’s just part of the team’s headaches.

In an ideal world, the Sharks could just blow it all up. It might be tempting to view that as possible, as we saw NHL teams throw caution to the wind during this offseason, often ignoring what charts and recent play might say.

So, maybe there’s room for dreaming. If that door is cracked open even a little, the Sharks should not hesitate. Realistically, though? They seem stuck.

Jarringly, The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn ranked three Sharks among the NHL’s 10 worst contracts (sub required). Not a single Shark was even an honorable mention on his best contracts list, so there’s not much to dilute that poison.

[PHT’s 2021 NHL Free Agent Tracker]

Certainly, there’s room to debate that Erik Karlsson deserves the absolute worst spot instead of Drew Doughty. Either way, few would deny that Karlsson’s contract is frightening for the Sharks. The 31-year-old’s mammoth $11.5M cap hit only expires after the 2026-27 season.

You could argue that Erik Karlsson’s story is, to some extent, the same as that of the Sharks. Considering the age of their core, their front office might have expected a drop-off, eventually. Just not this soon.

This xSPAR chart from Evolving Hockey charts that course in a graph:

Sharks should consider trades, bold experiments to turn things around Karlsson Evo
via Evolving Hockey

It happened earlier, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic went sour sooner than expected, too. At 34, Vlasic’s already sliding to third pair duty, a disturbing fate for a defenseman whose $7M cap hit runs for five more seasons. Would a GM succumb to nostalgia for ‘Douard in a way that the Oilers did with Duncan Keith? Would retirement or an LTIR trip be the messy “solution” for Vlasic and/or Karlsson?

The Sharks likely weren’t expecting to mull these questions over this soon. Even with Brent Burns, there’s subtle slippage, which isn’t great being that he’s somehow already 36, and his $8M cap hit lasts for four more seasons.

Sharks should consider trades, bold experiments to turn things around Burns MEV comparison
via Evolving Hockey

Room for the Sharks to experiment? Maybe no excuse not to?

Leaf through the Sharks’ even-strength metrics at Natural Stat Trick, and you probably won’t be blown away by their level of play. Yes, you could argue that Martin Jones’ struggles dragged the Sharks from mediocre to abysmal.

If the Sharks want to aspire to something resembling contention — they spend like contenders, after all — then it might mean asking people to exit their comfort zones. Really, they might want to throw a bunch of ideas at the wall, and see what sticks.

[PHT’s 2021 Offseason NHL Trade Tracker]

Ponderous power play

It’s baffling that their power play ranked third-worst in the NHL last season (14.1-percent), and ranks fourth-worst during the two seasons since Bob Boughner took over as head coach (15.9-percent).

In November 2020, Jack Han shared some interesting insight about how Rocky Thompson and the Sharks wanted to make things work with Karlsson and Burns on the same power play. Thompson professed an interest in “nerding out about hockey” to Sheng Peng, but with Thompson gone due to COVID rules, maybe it’s time for even bolder experiments?

Erik Karlsson’s power play time with Brent Burns (79:07) nearly equaled his time away from him (73:16) last season. On one hand, that makes sense. Both take up a lot of oxygen, and each might want to play the point. In an NHL where teams lean toward 4F/1D setups, splitting the two up makes some sense.

Yet, with the way the Sharks are built, the best-case scenario would be to use their talents, and give penalty kills a lot to think about. Could the key be to convince Brent Burns to move his booming shot to “Alex Ovechkin‘s office?” Maybe on a more permanent basis?

Burns back to forward?

Truly, Burns might be the catalyst for multiple experiments.

Back in 2014, Fear the Fin argued that the Sharks were better off deploying Burns as a forward, instead of a defenseman. While that decision clearly worked out fine for the Sharks, the team’s predicament should at least prompt people to revisit the question.

Theoretically, moving Burns to forward could allow him to create even more offense, and soften the blow from defensive issues. As he gets older, he’s only going to have more trouble getting back into position if he decides to get aggressive offensively. What if that damage was mitigated by a position change?

Of course, Burns probably wouldn’t prefer that. As a forward, he’d almost certainly see a drastic drop in ice time.

But, frankly, are the Sharks really in a position to be that worried about ruffling feathers? (Granted, Brent Burns probably thinks about feathers more than any other NHL player. Although he has competition in Ryan Getzlaf.)

Overall, a Sharks turnaround is easier said than done

Sometimes you make big bets, only to come up empty. Long-term, big-money contracts rarely work out several years down the line in sports. Yet, with the Sharks, it’s truly dizzying just how quickly everything went south.

Do they stand much of a chance of turning things around in anything but the mildest ways?

In a putrid Pacific Division, being mildly competitive might be enough to at least linger in the playoff bubble. Considering all of the expensive bets the Sharks made, treading water — or remaining in the cellar — sure seems disappointing. Unfortunately, such a fate might simply be unavoidable.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Teravainen scores late, Hurricanes rally to beat Rangers 3-2

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    NEW YORK – Teuvo Teravainen scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period, Frederik Andersen stopped 29 shots and the Carolina Hurricanes rallied to beat the New York Rangers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

    Jalen Chatfield and Stefan Noesen also scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes, who won for the third time in four games.

    With the comeback win, the Hurricanes became the second team – following Boston – to reach the 100-point mark this season as Carolina increased its Metropolitan Division-lead over second-place New Jersey to two points and the third-place Rangers to eight.

    “That was a great effort. All 20 guys contributed and we got what we deserved,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “If we play like that, we’ll be in good shape. This time of year it gets tougher and tougher.”

    Tyler Motte and Kaapo Kakko scored for the Rangers, who had won four straight were 6-0-1 in their last seven. Igor Shesterkin finished with 36 saves as the Rangers played their third game in four nights – the previous two shutout wins at home.

    “Igor kept us in there as long as he could and we just didn’t have enough in the tank,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”They won more battles and played a hard game.”

    Teravainen scored his 11th goal with 2:33 left on a pass from defenseman Brent Burns, redirecting the puck past Shesterkin. The Hurricanes, who trailed 1-0 and 2-1.

    “Somehow they left me open in the back side, great pass by him,” Teravainen said of the winning-goal pass to him in the slot. “We knew this would be a tough night. They have a good team. We knew we had to battle to win this game.”

    The Rangers led 1-0 entering the third and were vying for their third-straight shutout before Chatfield tied the score at 9:49 – the first goal the Rangers allowed in more than eight periods. New York was coming off a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night with Shesterkin in goal and a 7-0 triumph over Nashville behind Jaroslav Halak on Sunday.

    Kakko then put New York back ahead 31 seconds later with his 13th goal, only to have Noesen answer right back 18 seconds later to tie it 2-2.

    Motte opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first, knocking the puck past Andersen for his third goal in four games and sixth of the season overall.

    The Rangers hadn’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 defeat on March 4 at Boston.

    “Tonight we didn’t play near well enough to beat that team,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. ”Honestly, the whole game they outplayed us. They were a lot quicker. They managed the puck real well … We didn’t play our game.”


    Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal played his 729th game with Carolina on Tuesday, tying defenseman Glen Wesley for the second-most games played in franchise history since relocation from Hartford in 1997. Staal, 34, trails only his brother Eric, who played 909 games for the Hurricanes from 2003-16.


    Hurricanes: Host the Rangers on Thursday night to finish the home-and-home set in the opener of a four-game homestand.

    Rangers: At Carolina on Thursday night to open a two-game trip.

    Ullmark’s 40 saves carries Bruins past Senators, 2-1

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    BOSTON – Linus Ullmark made 40 saves, Jake DeBrusk had the go-ahead goal and the NHL-best Boston Bruins continued their pursuit of the league’s record for regular-season victories with a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.

    “I thought he was outstanding and he needed to be,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said of Ullmark. “Unfortunately we gave up a lot of good looks, a lot of odd-man rushes because of our puck management and he bailed us out like he has all year.”

    David Krejci added a power-play goal for Boston, which won its fourth straight.

    Dylan Gambrell scored for the Senators and Mads Sogaard made 33 stops.

    “We had a shooters’ mentality for two periods,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “The third period, they’ve won 54 games now, they’re not going to give you an odd-man rush, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re going to have to earn it.”

    The Bruins posted their 54th win and with 12 games left are on pace to break the mark of 62, set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 and matched by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19.

    Chasing the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, Ottawa has lost six of seven following a season-high, five-game winning streak.

    Coming off a 3-2 road trip where they won the last three games by a combined score of 15-2 that included two shutouts by backup Jeremy Swayman, the Bruins converted on a two-man, power-play advantage to tie the game at 1 midway into the opening period when Krejci poked in a rebound from the edge of the crease.

    DeBrusk completed a nifty play with Brad Marchand when he collected a pass cutting down the slot at full speed, shifted and tucked a rebound past Sogaard at 15:52 of the first period for his 23rd goal.

    “It was ‘all world.’ I saw him and he fed it through a lot of guys for a breakaway,” DeBrusk said of the pass. “It was one of those passes where I didn’t know what to do. I was going to point at him (after) but I was going too fast.”

    Gambrell’s wraparound score gave Ottawa a 1-0 edge.

    “I thought I played a good game today,” Sogaard said. “I just battled and stayed with it the entire way. … These ones are tough because we were so close.”


    Ullmark stopped 22 shots in the second period with at least a dozen of them high-quality chances. During an Ottawa PP, he jumped from a crouch to make a right-shoulder stop on Alex DeBrincat’s bid from in close.

    “We talked about it,” defenseman Hampus Lindholm said of the second period. “We know we’re a good team in the third and wanted to tighten it up for him. … They got a lot of chances that were our own fault in the second.”


    The Bruins highlighted women who work and compete in the sports community, having Olympic gold medalist and Boston Pride defender Kali Flanagan accompany Bruins players during pregame walk-ins along with local high school scholastic award winners. In addition, in-arena host Michaela Johnson handled the PA for the night and they also left yellow roses at the seats of female reporters.

    NOTES: The Senators entered the game as the only team holding an advantage in their series against the Bruins this season, winning twice in three games. … Montgomery said after the morning skate that defenseman Derek Forbort would likely be sidelined with a lower-body injury at least through the rest of the regular season. … DeBrusk, playing on the top line most of the season, is four off his career-high goal total, set in 2018-19.


    Senators: Host Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    Bruins: Host longtime rival Montreal in an Original Six matchup Thursday.

    Boldy’s goal with 1.3 left in OT lifts Wild over Devils

    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    NEWARK, N.J. – Matt Boldy scored with 1.3 seconds left in overtime and Filip Gustavsson made a career-high 47 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

    The game was a chippy, defensive struggle. After two scoreless periods, the Devils were outshooting the Wild 22-19.

    Minnesota finally broke through 6:41 into the third when Mason Shaw scored his seventh goal of the season on a wraparound.

    Timo Meier answered for the Devils five minutes later with his 35th goal of the season on a wraparound of his own.

    New Jersey was unable to convert on a late power play, and the teams went to overtime.

    It was a back-and-forth five minutes of extra hockey, with both goaltenders making good saves. After Jack Hughes hit the post for the Devils, the puck caromed off a post to Boldy and he beat the buzzer with his 23rd goal of the season.

    Vitek Vanecek stopped 27 shots for New Jersey.

    NOTES: The Devils are 10-4 in overtime, while the Wild improved to 4-5.


    Wild: Play at Philadelphia on Thursday night.

    Devils: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.

    Avalanche coach Jared Bednar signs extension through ’26-27

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    DENVER – Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar has signed a three-year extension that will keep him in charge of the reigning Stanley Cup champions through the 2026-27 season.

    The new deal for the winningest head coach in club history kicks in once the current contract runs out after the 2023-24 season.

    Bednar, 51, is the only person to win championships in the ECHL, AHL and NHL as head coach. He directed the Avalanche to their third Stanley Cup title in team history last season by beating Tampa Bay, the two-time defending champions.

    This season, the Avalanche have dealt with an array of injuries, which include missing captain Gabriel Landeskog all year after he underwent knee surgery in October. But they’re starting to creep closer to being healthy – and working their way up the standings. Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak to remain in a tight race with Dallas and Minnesota for the Central Division crown. The top spot in the Western Conference is in play, too.

    “Jared has done a tremendous job behind the bench and certainly deserves this extension and to continue as the leader of our team,” Joe Sakic, the team’s president of hockey operations, said in a statement.

    It wasn’t the prettiest of starts for Bednar in his inaugural season for Colorado. In 2016-17, his team amassed only 48 points (22-56-4) to finish last in the league. Since then, it’s been full steam ahead for Bednar and the Avalanche. They became the first NHL squad to go from worst to first in a span of four seasons or less since the 1970-71 Bruins, according to research by the team.

    In addition, Bednar has led the Avalanche to five straight playoff appearances – and is closing in on a sixth – to become the first Avalanche coach to accomplish the feat. His 40 postseason wins are the second-most in team history, trailing only Bob Hartley (49).

    “His strength as a communicator, his relationship with the players, the way he prepares each and every day is a huge reason our team has been so successful,” general manager Chris MacFarland said. “He is an exceptional leader.”

    Bednar is currently the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Pittsburgh’s Mike Sullivan (December 2015).

    “Being able to lead this team over the last seven years has been a privilege,” said Bednar, whose team faces the Penguins on Wednesday. “I am grateful and excited to have the opportunity to continue building on what we’ve accomplished so far.”

    Bednar captured a Kelly Cup (ECHL) with the South Carolina Stingrays in 2009, along with a Calder Cup (AHL) with the Lake Erie Monsters in 2016.