Joe Thornton on the block? Probably not, but expect changes from the San Jose Sharks

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According to TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger, the San Jose Sharks are willing and ready to make a deal. Like everyone else in the world, they would like that deal to be for a top-nine forward – and with the way Ryane Clowe has been playing, it probably needs to be a guy who can play in the top-six. From the sound of it, nobody on the Sharks roster is safe.

From Dreger:

“Depending on who you talk to, there are teams that say some big names are potentially in play,” Dreger said of the Sharks. “Certainly the Sharks are willing to consider just about anything. San Jose is willing to part with a defenseman – Dan Boyle’s name, believe it or not, has been thrown out there – but they would need to get a forward in return and preferably someone who could fit in their top nine.”

Dreger goes on to say that even Joe Thornton’s name has been bandied about, but that makes very little sense. Moving Thornton, regardless of the fact that he’d leave a very talented group of teammates behind, would essentially mean a rebuild in San Jose. It would be an admission that the Joe Thornton era, during which the Sharks achieved unprecedented levels of success, was ultimately a failure. A quarter of the way through a lockout-shortened season doesn’t seem like the appropriate time to end an era. Just ask the Buffalo Sabres ah fuck thanks a lot, Darcy Regier.

It’s safe to say that Patrick Marleau is probably not up for grabs, either. He’s cooled down with the rest of the Sharks roster, but, like Thornton, is still scoring at a point-per-game clip. He’s a lifelong Shark – one of the few with speed – and has a strict no-movement clause in his contract. He’s shown no interest in leaving San Jose via free agency; it’s hard to imagine why he’d waive his no-trade now.

We can also take Logan Couture and Brent Burns off the list of trade suspects with reasonable certainty. Doug Wilson wouldn’t part with Couture to snag Rick Nash last year when he had all the leverage in the world, why would he move his young, all-star center in the midst of a skid? Brent Burns is not only being looked to as the future once Dan Boyle retires, but his trade value is artificially low given his up-and-down 2011-12 campaign and the mystery injuries that kept him out of training camp this year.

Speaking of Boyle, it’s doubtful the Sharks think they can win without him on the back end. He’s the team’s leader in average ice time by a significant margin, and the power play took a tumble right around the time he missed a pair of games due to the flu. In fact, it hasn’t recovered since.

There’s also a large group of roster players that simply don’t have much trade value, for one reason or another – contract status, age, inexperience, poor performance, or limited talent. Sure, they might be throw-ins to balance a deal one way or the other, but none of them will be enough to improve the team as part a one-for-one deal. We can probably include Michal Handzus, Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish, T.J. Galiardi, Scott Gomez, James Sheppard, Tim Kennedy, Matt Pelech, and Matt Irwin on that list.

*Editor’s note: Now that I’ve predicted that none of the aforementioned players will be traded, at least one is virtually guaranteed to be traded, thus making me look like a jackass and solidifying my position as an elite member of the hockey blogosphere.

Which leaves a handful of forwards and a bevy of second and third pairing defenders as trade bait. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of trading each:

Joe Pavelski

Upside: Pavelski is not the strongest of skaters, which is tough on a team that’s bogged down with quite a few slow forwards in its top six.

Downside: One of the few Sharks who have pulled their weight offensively this season, Pavelski is also among the league’s top faceoff men, can play center or the wing, and is the only right-hand shot in San Jose’s top six. The Sharks would need to get an almost identical player back, except bigger and faster, to justify trading him – and why would any other general manager make that deal? Pass.

Marty Havlat

Upside: An established top-six forward with a proven reputation for offensive punch, Havlat could bring back a decent return from a young team looking to add veteran leadership or high-end skill.

Downside: Havlat’s injury history diminishes his trade value, and his creativity and speed are precious commodities on a Sharks team that lacks much of either. He also has a no-trade clause, and his cap hit is quite reasonable. Pass.

Ryane Clowe

Upside: Clowe is having a terrible year, but it’s not enough to completely sink his trade value. On a faster squad, he might be an extremely nice compliment for a quick, playmaking center that could use a little protection. I could imagine a handful of Eastern Conference teams lining up at the possibility of adding Clowe – Philadelphia springs to mind. He’s slow, and his leadership this season has been questionable.

Downside: As an impending unrestricted free agent, Clowe will have diminished value. He’s also the only skill player on the Sharks roster that plays with anything resembling an edge. But this team needs speed more than it needs edge. Trade him, for the right price.  

Tommy Wingels

Upside: None

Downside: Moving Tommy Wingels reeks of the Jamie McGinn panic move last season. He’s one of the only Sharks forwards outside of the top-six with the potential to get there eventually. He’s speedy, physical, has a fantastic release, and isn’t worth nearly as much on the trade market as he is to the San Jose Sharks. Wingels is the type of guy another GM would like to steal, but not a player that will bring back significant return. Pass.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Upside: Vlasic is probably the most valuable defensemen the Sharks have. He’s already arguably a top-pairing shut-down defender and likely has a way to go before he hits his ceiling. He’s young, but experienced. He’s signed long term at a reasonable rate. He’d bring back a rich bounty.

Downside: All of that shit I just wrote, minus the last line. Vlasic is an incredibly valuable piece of this team’s present and future, which is the type of player the Sharks don’t have many of. The return would have to be a top-four defenseman under 30 and a top-six forward to be worthwhile for the Sharks, so unless another GM wants to seriously overpay, Vlasic goes nowhere.

Brad Stuart

Upside: Stuart is a veteran defenseman who can play upwards of 20 minutes a night in a shut-down role, moves the puck well, is signed to a reasonable contract, has a Stanley Cup on his resume, and is the type of player any playoff-bound team would love to add at the deadline.

Downside: The Sharks plan to be a playoff-bound team, and they need Stuart – one of the few secondary players on this roster who has exceeded expectations. He also has a limited no-trade clause, which limits his value as well as Doug Wilson’s options for moving him. Pass.

Douglas Murray

Upside: Slow, aging, and an impending unrestricted free agent, Murray is clearly on the downside of his career. He’s big, physical, and experienced – a great add for a young team with playoff hopes, or a team looking to shore up an injury-depleted blue line. His cap hit is very digestible, and his value is probably higher on the trade market than it is within the organization.

Downside: Murray is a big part of San Jose’s improved penalty kill, a noted physical force that stands out among more diminutive mates on defense like Boyle, Vlasic, Jason Demers and Justin Braun. He’s an excellent shot blocker and a leader in the dressing room. His impending UFA status diminishes his trade value a bit. Regardless of his better qualities, however, Murray is clearly an expendable piece on the decline. Package him with a late round pick or a fourth-line forward and the return could be that top-nine guy Doug Wilson is looking for.

Jason Demers

Upside: Demers is talented, a good skater, and probably the most valuable young defensemen the Sharks have. He’s come nowhere near reaching his potential, but has proven that he can put up points at the NHL level. Demers has found himself in and out of the Sharks lineup as a result of an over crowded blue line. One could argue that his skillset is redundant, considering the emergence of Justin Braun and the established nature of Boyle and Burns’ respective roles. He’s signed to a reasonable deal, and his right-hand shot would be coveted around the league.

Downside: This is the type of guy that too many general managers regret trading a few years down the line. Demers has a tremendous skillset, is still very young, and the Sharks don’t know what the future holds for Dan Boyle. It might be hard for the Sharks not to come out looking like losers on this deal, because while Demers might have decent trade value, it’s lower than it should be. But, you have to give to get, and if the Sharks are going to nab a quality forward that helps push them over the hump, Demers might have to be the piece that’s sacrificed. For the right price, trade him.

Justin Braun

Upside: Just about everything I wrote about Jason Demers. He’s more sound defensively, a little bit older, and not quite as dynamic with the puck.

Downside: See above. Braun might have less trade value than Demers given that he’s older and less experienced. He’s signed for three years at well under $2M a season, bargain money for a cap-conscious team like the Sharks.  Again, moveable for the right price, but the “right price” is probably not something anyone else is willing to give up to get him. Pass.

Of course the Sharks could also elect to use draft picks and prospects as a means to bolster their current lineup. But that would require them to actually have prospects that anyone in their right mind would want, and they don’t. This, in turn, probably means it’s also not a good idea to deal away draft picks.

Put yourself in Doug Wilson’s shoes and comment away. Who would you move, and what would you want in return?

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