One Wild Summer: Breaking down the San Jose Sharks' Offseason-Part One
Today, in my first TCL post, I will be reviewing the 3 trades that the Sharks have made this offseason, all of which, interestingly, have been with the Minnesota Wild.
Brent Burns and a 2nd round pick in 2012 for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and a 1st round pick in 2011: The Sharks kicked off the offseason with a bang on the opening day of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft when they traded Setoguchi, highly-touted prospect Coyle, and a 1st for hulking, 6-foot-5 defensemen Brent Burns. Realizing that San Jose's lack of defensive depth may have been a contributing factor to their loss at the hands of the Canucks in the Western Conference finals of the 2011 playoffs, Doug Wilson made a decisive move to acquire a top flight defenseman. He found his suitor in the form of the Minnesota Wild, who were willing to give up their all-star two-way defenseman for the right return.
While many people questioned if the the
Sharks gave up too much for Brent Burns; that is not the case. Doug Wilson knows that the Sharks' time is now, and he doesn't have the luxury of time to develop these prospects. So he traded his offensive depth for more defensive depth, only having to give up one 2010-11 roster player in the process. As you can see, in no way will this trade make the Sharks a worse team in the upcoming season, and can only help. With some of the other moves made this offseason which will be discussed later, San Jose now has one of the best and deepest defensive corps in franchise history.
As for Brent Burns, the Sharks are getting a young, versatile defenseman with size, speed, and a booming shot from the point on the power play. Some have questioned his defensive play, but it has yet to affect his game and as long as he is playing with a defensive defenseman like Vlasic, it should not be of much concern. Also of some concern was that his current contract expired at the end of the 2011-12 season, at which time he would have become a UFA. If he had decided to test the waters of free agency, he would have certainly received a large pay day, one that the Sharks would almost certainly not have been able to match. As it turns out, however, Wilson was quick to put this fear to rest as he inked his new defenseman to a five-year contract worth $5.75 million per season. Concussions have also been a problem with Brent Burns in the past, but as long as he can continue to stay healthy as he was last season, the Sharks should be very happy with their new defenseman.
Giving up the talented, but wildly inconsistent Setoguchi may not have been that hard of a decision for Doug Wilson to make, but it was the inclusion of prospect Charlie Coyle that may have made him think about the trade for an extra second or two. But Wilson knew that defensemen cut from the Burns mold don't grow on trees, that the price for the acquisition of one would be steep, and he also knew how much the Sharks needed that kind of player, which they have been missing ever since the retirement of Rob Blake. So while the Sharks may have given up a lot in this trade, the return was exactly what they needed and should really help their chances for a Stanley Cup in 2012.
Martin Havlat for Dany Heatley: A second trade with the Wild saw the Sharks acquire speedy Czech winger Martin Havlat for the slower but pure sniping Dany Heatley. With the loss of Setoguchi in the Burns trade, the Sharks saw some of their forward speed walk out the door. To remedy this, the Sharks saw the need to acquire some more of that speed. While Havlat may not put up the points that Heatley has been known to, he offers much better two-way play and speed to the Sharks top six.
During his most successful season in the NHL, Havlat tallied 77 points in 2008-09 with the Chicago Blackhawks. These numbers are only 13 points more than that of Heatley's worst season, which happened to be last year with the Sharks (probably having something to do with is ousting this summer). But these numbers are of no concern to the Sharks, as they acquired Havlat to do everything that Heatley didn't. Havlat backchecks, forechecks, skates like lightning and has been known to perform in the postseason -- an anti-Heatley of sorts. With 28 points in his last 26 playoff games, it was probably these numbers that made Havlat a target of San Jose. Havlat does have some injury history, missing significant time in consecutive seasons with the Blackhawks from 2006-2008, but has been relatively healthy the prior three seasons.
With Heatley, the Sharks are parting ways with a former fifty-goal scorer. But he has not hit that number in four seasons since he did it consecutively in 2005-06 and 2006-07 for the Senators. He is also coming off of the worst season in his career and has run out of favor with the fans in San Jose with his lackluster playoffs and seemingly uncanny ability to be injured when it matters most. As long as Havlat can stay healthy for the playoffs, this trade works well for both the Sharks and the Wild: San Jose receives a speedy forward to help their top six while Minnesota gets one of the purest snipers in the game today to play alongside captain Miiko Koivu and add a scoring punch to a stagnant offense.
James Sheppard for a 3rd round pick in 2013: I know what everybody's thinking: here we go again. Yes, once again this offseason the Sharks and the Wild have partnered up on the trade front. This time around we saw former 9th overall pick in 2006, James Sheppard, head to the Bay Area while the Wild received a 3rd in 2 years.
Being a former top ten pick, the Wild must have seen something special in Sheppard. Alas, he never quite panned out in the State of Hockey, only scoring a mere 49 points in 224 games of NHL action. Adding to this, Sheppard did not play one game last season after he was suspended by the Wild for breaking his knee cap while riding ATVs. Apparently his contract forbade him from high-risk behavior. But Doug Wilson must have seen potential in this 24-year-old and felt it was worth the rick to give up a 3rd rounder to acquire him. Who knows, maybe all Sheppard needed was a change of scenery to recapture some of his former star potential.
Part 2: Look out for my next post when I will review the Sharks free agent signings this offseason and show what the Sharks still need to acquire to compete for the Cup next season.
The Checking Line: I am very excited about this opportunity to write about the San Jose Sharks for TCL. I hope you all enjoy it.