Should goalie be on San Jose’s trade dead­line wish list?

The Mercury News - - Sports - By Paul Gackle [email protected]­yare­anews­group. com

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.

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