Should goalie be on San Jose’s trade deadline wish list?
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA >> The moratorium is over. It’s time to ramp up the trade talk.
With the NHL’s trade deadline set to expire in just two weeks, I’m putting an end to my three-week ban on trade questions this week, indulging your unquenchable thirst for deadline speculation.
What are the Sharks looking for? Who will they use as trade bait? Will we see a goalie deal?
Without any further ado, let’s open the mailbag:
What is the best fix for the Sharks’ goaltending issues because they do not have the assets to acquire a top-tier netminder without ruining the system? — @marleaufan1001
You’ve seen the best fix for the Sharks goaltending issues on display since the All-Star break: solid-team defense.
The Sharks have surrendered two or fewer goals in all four games, beating two of the Western Conference’s top-three scoring teams on the road in the process. It’s a continuation of a trend that started back in January before Erik Karlsson’s injury temporarily derailed the Sharks defensive momentum before the break.
Isn’t it funny how Martin Jones looks like Martin Jones again now that the Sharks have turned the Swiss cheese defense into a solid block of cheddar?
I tossed out the idea of a goalie trade back in early January, suggesting that if Jones had failed to regain his form in the weeks leading into the trade deadline, the Sharks might look to acquire a veteran backup as a potential insurance policy. The key words here are, “if
Jones had failed to regain his form.” In the wake of Jones’ turnaround, it seems highly unlikely that the Sharks will make a deal for a goalie before the deadline.
Jones is playing his best hockey of the season, posting a .939 save percentage in three starts since the break, a stretch that includes road wins over the Winnipeg Jets (No. 5 ranked offense) and the Calgary Flames (No. 1 offense). If you discard the three appearances that Jones made while the Sharks were figuring out how to defend without Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic before the break, his save percentage is .932 in nine starts since Jan. 2.
Aaron Dell also put together a quality performance in Edmonton on Saturday, making 21 saves on 23 shots in his first start since Jan. 16. Head coach Pete DeBoer called the effort
“vintage Aaron Dell.” Like Jones, Dell benefitted from the quality defense he received in front of him.
It took the Sharks a few months to adjust to the more aggressive style of attack they’re implementing this season. Granted, Jones let in quite a few marshmallows early in the season, but now that the Sharks defense has figured things out, the goaltending is following suit.
With that in mind, it doesn’t make sense to waste assets on acquiring a goalie at the deadline. Jones’ track record in playoffs (.926 save percentage in 42 appearances) speaks for itself. He deserves to get the net in the spring and Dell is a more than serviceable backup.
If the Sharks were to make a deadline trade, would Kevin Labanc or Dylan Gambrell be a hotter commodity? — @ prairiebilbo
With a goalie trade likely off the table, the Sharks will pursue forward depth if they decide to swing a deal before the deadline.
As things stand, Labanc’s spot in the lineup and the fourth line center position are a couple of areas the Sharks could address. Labanc knows that his job could be in jeopardy. After the break, DeBoer told him that he needs to show that he can be trusted in critical situations, and after scoring his first-career hat trick on Saturday, Labanc admitted that he’s playing with something to prove.
“I’ve got to show that I’m doing everything that I can to be here,” he said.
At this point, Gambrell might be a hotter commodity. Labanc’s offensive ceiling is higher, but he’s struggled to display any type of consistency during his three-year NHL career. The 23-year-old continues to make the same mistakes that plagued him as a rookie. He takes too many senseless penalties, he commits a lot of costly turnovers, his commitment to defense is spotty and his game-management decisions need work.
Gambrell, on the other hand, is known for being a high-IQ player. Dallas Stars coach Jim Montgomery, who coached Gambrell at Denver University, called him a “poor man’s Pavelski” because he possesses the Sharks captain’s exceptional hockey sense. Gambrell is also fast, making him a good fit for the modern game.
Without a first-round pick in 2019 and 2020, the Sharks might be forced to package one of their hot prospects, Sasha Chmelevski, Ivan Chekhovich or Ryan Merkley, along with Labanc or Gambrell to land an impact forward at the deadline.
Is it worth it? GM Doug Wilson will be grappling with that question the next two weeks.
With help from a strong defense, Sharks goaltender Martin Jones has been playing his best hockey of the season.