Sharks mailbag: Shopping for a forward?

Sharks mailbag: Shopping for a forward?
February 20, 2013, 9:45 am
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Dan Boyle's name has been tossed around in Sharks trade rumors. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Now that we’re already one-third of the way into the regular season, trade talk is seemingly starting to heat up around the league, and will continue until the NHL’s deadline on April 3.

Several mailbag questions this week had to do with potential moves the Sharks could make, as they try and reverse their recent losing ways.

Matt Moore (@thew2589) asked via Twitter: @KKurzCSN what player can the Sharks trade for that would make them better? Who would we trade to get that player?

Well, Matt, according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the Sharks could already be in search of a forward.

On TSN’s “Insider Trading” segment on Monday night, Dreger said:

“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 went on to say that even captain Joe Thornton’s name was mentioned as a trade chip, although he thought that didn’t make much sense (and neither do I). As long as the Sharks are in a playoff position and the bottom doesn’t drop out on the season, the Sharks will almost certainly keep their core players together. Not to mention Thornton, Boyle, Patrick Marleau, Marty Havlat, Michal Handzus, Brent Burns and Brad Stuart all have some form of no-movement clause, either full or limited.

Trading Boyle for a forward, even though he's the elder statesman at 36, would be playing with fire. He's still arguably the Sharks' best and most valuable defenseman, and if this team has any legitimate shot at a championship, Boyle is going to be a part of it. He leads the team in ice time again, with more than 23 minutes per game, and the Sharks simply have no one on their roster to replace those minutes.

The Sharks do need another forward that can put the puck in the net, though. They needed one last season after they traded Jamie McGinn. They needed one over the summer, and they needed one at the start of the season in January. They still need one now that the Scott Gomez experiment isn't panning out, and TJ Galiardi seems to be falling out of favor with the coaching staff.

San Jose will only go as far as its star players take it, but that doesn’t mean scoring on the third and fourth lines isn’t vitally important. The Sharks have 33 goals from their forwards this season, and all but seven of those have come from the big four of Patrick Marleau (10), Joe Pavelski (6), Logan Couture (6) and Thornton (4). Tim Kennedy’s game-winning goal on Tuesday is a good example of just how important a goal from a so-called “unusual suspect” can be, and seven of the Sharks’ first 15 games have been decided by one goal (3-1-3).

So, who could the Sharks give up to land another goal scorer? The obvious answer is a defenseman.

The Sharks have seven healthy defensemen on the roster (eight if you include Matt Irwin, who played well at the start of the season and has since been reassigned to Worcester), and have been rotating healthy players in and out of their blue line corps. Douglas Murray, Justin Braun, Brent Burns and Jason Demers have all had to be healthy spectators at one point, with Demers missing three of the last six games.

One rumor in the Ottawa Sun recently suggested that Demers would be the most likely candidate for the Sharks to dangle as trade bait, and I agree.

Demers is still just 24 years old, and although he took a step backwards last year, he had a good stretch playing in Finland during the lockout (21 points in 30 games in the SM-liiga). A fractured wrist to start the season didn’t help him, and he missed training camp and the Sharks’ first seven games.

Demers is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, whereas Justin Braun just signed a three-year, $4.75 million contract last summer.

Murray could also be getting shopped, but the 32-year-old defenseman’s physical play and ability to eat up minutes on the penalty kill gives him the nod to play over Demers. Murray showed some veteran leadership on Tuesday in St. Louis, running over Ryan Reaves after the Blues’ muscle man was causing some problems. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Murray is still third on the Sharks in ice time shorthanded, at more than three minutes on that much-improved unit.

In a shortened season in which games are so much more meaningful, general managers will have to act quickly and decisively if something starts to go wrong. Don’t be surprised if Doug Wilson does just that in the very near future.