No Deal: Sharks would be wise to sit tight as trade deadline approaches

San Jose has a month to mull over potential additions to the squad

Gabriel John Ostler
January 24, 2019 - 12:02 pm

The NHL trade deadline is a month away and with it comes the usual stratification into buyers and sellers, contenders and pretenders.

San Jose definitely fancies themselves a contender. And it appears that they are also attempting to be buyers.

“The answer is probably yes,” general manager Doug Wilson told reporters, when asked if the team is looking to add someone by the deadline. “We do have a focus for this year.”

While Wilson’s win-now mentality is admirable, especially for a club still in search of its first-ever Stanley Cup, the reality is that any significant move runs the risk of mortgaging the franchise’s future and disrupting hard-earned team chemistry.

Oftentimes, players brought in at the deadline are typically rentals — talented individuals with expiring contracts stuck on aimless teams who have no intention of bringing them back. This traditionally means that they come at the cost of future assets, meaning draft picks, prospects, or both.

When you examine the Sharks’ coffers, though, you’ll find them exceedingly bare.

San Jose has no first-round selection either in 2019 or 2020 thanks to the Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson trades. In addition, the conditions on the resources involved in the Karlsson deal mean that if San Jose makes the Stanley Cup Final this year, they send the Ottawa Senators their 2021 first-rounder as well.

The next idea, then, would be to dip into the well-stocked farm system.

Youngsters like Dylan Gambrell and Sasha Chmelevski would definitely be enticing to rebuilding squads. However, with the influx of top-end talent almost guaranteed to cease in the coming seasons due to the aforementioned lack of picks, depleting the prospect pool would be robbing Peter to pay Paul (though, unfortunately, for the rest of the league, Peter Chiarelli is no longer around to be robbed).

On top of the logistical hurdles, there’s the fact that the Sharks can ill-afford a shakeup that results in slippage in the seriously top-heavy West.

Before finding their stride in December and early January, San Jose had to be considered a major disappointment. Despite returning an almost-identical roster from its playoff-appearing 2017-18 season, the Sharks struggled mightily to integrate the new singular talent of Karlsson.

It’s hard to look at the delicate balance San Jose has managed to strike by the All-Star Break and believe they can seamlessly fold in a Matt Duchene or a Wayne Simmonds.

Even last year’s deadline acquisition — Kane — followed his hot start with a frustrating disappearing act in the playoffs. Kane has found his footing in this, his first full year with San Jose, but he remains an example of the fact that stars are not plug-and-play like Atari 2600s.

Building chemistry takes time.

Like all contending teams, the Sharks can always use more good players. Their forward depth is slightly suspect and the goalie play has been overall lackluster despite a recent uptick from Martin Jones.

But despite Wilson’s can-do attitude, the fact remains that the Sharks lack both the resources and the organizational capability to land an impact player and blend him into their winning formula.

“We have to get better,” Wilson also said,

He’s right — but in the wrong way. The Sharks will not get better by making a splash at the deadline. They will get better by standing pat and building on their current foundation.

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