My Two Cents for July 7th, 2013

Sharks In The Fold- On Friday (7/5) the San Jose Sharks as expected announced the signings of Logan Couture, Raffi Torres, and the newly acquired Tyler Kennedy. The Sharks also announced that NHL stalwart Scott Hannan has also signed on to be with team teal for the 2013-14 season. Couture's extension will carry though the 2018-19 season and will become effective when his current deal expires on July 1, 2014. Couture over his three year tenure in teal has certainly more than earned his keep. In 2012-13, Couture played in all 48 regular season games the Sharks, leading the team in goals (21) and finishing second in points (37) and assists (21), along with a +7 rating and four penalty minutes. In comparison to other players throughout the NHL,  Couture ranked sixth in game-winning goals (5), 10th in goals (21), and 15th in power play goals (7). Amongst forwards, Couture’s 51 blocked shots ranked second in the NHL.* Couture has become the Sharks "Go to Guy" when the team needs a goal or even a blocked shot. With the exception of Antti Niemi, Couture was otherwise the Sharks MVP (of all players not playing in the goalie position). He is the complete player and is able to carry a team on his back, which will likely be one thing the Sharks will rely on him to do going forward. With Patrick Marleau hitting the twilight of his career (and with absolute all due respect to Marleau), Couture is the obvious "aire apparent" to Marleau once his days in teal are done. Couture will likely become the Sharks team Captain once Thornton is done or voluntarily seeds the captain-ship (likely on or after 2014-15).

Raffi Torres has also become the "aire apparent" to Ryane Clowe as the Sharks signed him as their UFA for this year's UFA market. General Manager Doug Wilson obviously felt that the benefits outweigh the risks for the Sharks as they inked the NHL veteran to a three year deal. When he was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes on April 2nd, Torres brought a brand of hockey with him that lit a fire under that Sharks and got the team to turn around after a tough 6-11-6 stretch prior. This lead the Sharks into the post season where the Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks and fell just a game short of upsetting the Los Angeles Kings. Torres did draw a suspension in the second round of the playoffs after hitting Jarod Stoll in Game 1. The drawback for Torres is that his reputation does not sit will with either Commissioner Gary Bettman or League Disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan (who certainly had his share of scraps in his playing days). This said, the Sharks are in the business of winning hockey games and trying to win a Stanley Cup. The Sharks are NOT in the business of pleasing the Commissioner or anyone else who works for him. Torres, like Clowe, can make a team better by his presence, can grind with anyone on the ice and has a surprisingly strong scoring touch. Torres' presence also assures Sharks players that they wont get pushed around by opponents nearly as much. In addition to Torres and Couture, Scott Hannan was also inked to a deal to continue with team teal. Hannan along side Brad Stuart was a huge contributor to the Sharks with a strong defensive gain. The veteran who began his career with the Sharks before stops in Colorado, Calgary and Nashville, has shown he still has what it takes to be a strong presence on the ice and just quietly goes out and does his job night in and night out. He was a good trade deadline pickup for the Sharks and will be a strong player to keep in teal for the upcoming 2013-14 season.

Welcome Tyler Kennedy- The Sharks acquired Tyler Kennedy from the Pittsburgh Penguins during a draft day trade on June 30th. The Sharks in return sent the Penguins a second round draft pick in the 2013 draft (58th selection overall). Kennedy will be a great addition to the team teal line up as the Sharks added a much needed forward. Kennedy, a member of the Penguins 2008-09 Stanley Cup Championship team, in his career has scored 76 goals while amassing 92 assist in 372 career NHL games. Kennedy, 26, is a proven player that gives the Sharks another scoring option to complement Couture, Marleau, and Joe Pavelski. Kennedy's contract is for two years and the Sharks should be instantly improved by Kennedy's presence on the ice. The fact that Kennedy also owns a Stanley Cup Ring is something that can rub off on the rest of the team. The Sharks now has a couple of players in Kennedy, along with Dan Boyle and Antti Niemi that have been to the NHL's version of the promised land and know how to win. The Sharks made some moves on draft day that to some may beg of question, but this certainly was not one of them. As a matter of fact, DW's best move on draft day was the acquisition of Kennedy. Having Kennedy on board is nothing short of an improvement and bring a versatile player that can easily fit on any of the Sharks top three lines. Kennedy by far is the best Sharks offensive acquisition in a few years.

TJ Galiardi Traded to Calgary- TJ Galiardi, who actually had a fairly decent season for team teal this year was the Sharks "Odd Man Out" this off season. Galiardi was traded to the Calgary Flames for a fourth round draft pick in the NHL's re-entry draft in 2015. Galiardi had six goals and nine assist in 50 regular season games for team teal. In the post season Galardi scored the game winning goal in Game 4 versus the then defending Champion Los Angeles Kings. With the Sharks looking to upgrade by bring in Tyler Kennedy from Pittsburgh, there was simply no place to put Galiardi on the teal roster going forward. However it's not all bad news for Galiardi who is returning to the city where he was born and raised in Calgary. Galiardi with the Flames should fit nicely on to their roster and will get a chance for ample playing time as the Flames look to rebuild. Galiardi also a former member of the Calgary Hitmen, who are a widely followed minor league team in that region of Canada. The downside for the Sharks is with this trade, DW maybe quietly conceding  that the unpopular trade that brought Galiardi to San Jose along with ex-Shark (and current Anaheim Duck) Daniel Winnik was a complete loss for the Sharks. Tough Galiardi's efforts will always be appreciated (and the trade that brought him to San Jose is by no means his fault or a knock on him), it's clear that the Jamie McGinn and top prospect Michael Sgarbossa trade (who's coming along nicely in the Avs' farm system) for Winnik and Galiardi was a loss and a huge mistake by DW and the Sharks. Again, this is not in any way, shape or form a knock on Galiardi as a player or person as he did his job to the best of his ability as a hockey player. You can argue whether or not McGinn would have been a long term fit in teal, but Sgarbossa will be a loss the Sharks will certainly (and privately) regret. And they should regret it. The Sharks franchise will hopefully learn from this error in judgement and move forward. They have no other choice.

Sharks 2013 Draft: Not Bad, However The Jury Will Be Out for Awhile- On June 30th the Sharks participated in the annual NHL's re-entry draft. The Sharks came into this draft with eight picks. One pick was traded to Pittsburgh for Tyler Kennedy which again was a good move by team teal. As for the rest of the draft, this will take some time to sift through and it's very safe to say the jury on this will be out for some time to come. The Sharks did not have a bad draft however may have chosen a route nobody saw coming. The Sharks at the end of the day made seven picks, four defensemen, one forward, one center and one goalie. The big name for the Sharks in this draft was Mirco Mueller from Everett (WHL) in the first round (18th overall). The Sharks felt strongly enough about Mueller that they were even willing to move up two spots in the draft and trade an extra pick to the Detroit Red Wings just to insure they got their man (Detroit is less of a rival to the Sharks now that the Red Wings have moved to the Eastern Conference). Mueller, 18, this past season complete his rookie year in the WHL and led his team in overall points with 31 (six goals, 25 assists). Mueller was named his team's Rookie of the Year. Mueller was also on the Swiss National team that participated in the IIHF World Junior Championships. The Sharks took a risk even though it was moving up just two spots to get him, so DW must be fairly confident that Mueller will do more than just pan out and be on the teams roster in the next 2-3 years.

Gabryel Boudreau from Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL was the Sharks second pick in the draft and the 49th selection overall. Paquin-Boudreau in 67 games for Baie-Comeau Boudreau scored 22 goals and had 41 assist to lead his team. He is certainly a player who has a strong scoring touch being a raw talent. If the Sharks can successfully further develop Boudreau he is someone who could be a strong player coming into the Sharks organization and maybe complement a player like Couture. Bourdreau and Mueller being the top two picks are certainly two players who could be wearing teal in the next few seasons along with Thomas Hertl, who was the Sharks top pick in the 2012. The three players will be a big part of the Sharks future as they start to retool for the time when players such as Joe Thornton, Marleau and Boyle have moved on. The Sharks need to begin this process as that future will be here soon enough and team teal needs to be wise to this. The Sharks addressed a few needs with the draft, however also took some risks with the draft that will leave the proverbial jury out for awhile.

The Sharks also drafted goaltender Fredrik Bergvik from Frolunda in the Swedish League with their fourth round pick (117th selection overall). In 14 games with Frolunda, Bergvik posted a 1.29 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage, both of which were tops in the league. He is very young and will probably be in the Sharks system for a few years before getting a chance at the main club's roster. This is not a bad deal though considering the time it takes to develop a strong goalie. Most goalies at the very start of their careers are projects, it's all in how a team develops them. With their first fifth round selection at 141st overall, the Sharks selected defenseman Michael Brodzinski from Muskegon in the USHL. Brodzinski, who will be attending the University of Minnesota this fall and playing for the Golden Gophers hockey team was tied for fifth among all USHL defensemen scorers with 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 61 games.

The final three players the Sharks drafter were defenseman Gage Ausmus, center Jacob Jackson and forward Emil Galimov. Ausmus played for the U-18 where he posted 2 goals, 12 assist in 56 games. Jackson, the youngest of the Sharks draft choices played for Tartan High School in Oakwood, Minnesota (outside of St. Paul). Jackson in 25 games dominated with a jaw dropping 29 goals and seven assists. He too is a long term project who may spend time playing NCAA hockey before joining the Sharks organization. However, this is someone who may be ready more sooner than later if developed in the right way. Jackson has plenty of upside, but again it may be a few years before he dawns the teal as a professional. Galimov, 21, spent last season in the KHL for the rebuilding franchise Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (the same franchise that lost an enitre team in 2011 in a tragic plane crash, including Sharks prospect Daniil Sobchenko). Galimov in 33 games had seven goals and 13 assist.

The Sharks overall did okay with the draft. It's hard to say that this was their best draft but they do get high marks in drafting Mueller and Boudreau. Trading to get Tyler Kennedy from Pittsburgh was a good move too. As for the rest of the draft picks, the jury will be out for awhile. In all fairness it will take time do develop these players and the Sharks need to really use these players to start to restore their farm system. With the exception of Brodzinski and likely Jackson who will be playing NCAA hockey, the Sharks failure to develop these players will only damage the franchise long term. The Sharks on all of these draft choices have to be right on the mark. The same holds true for all other players they have drafted last year and the year before. If any of these players are developed only to be dealt later (Charlie Coyle, Michael Sgarbossa), the purpose of this draft will be defeated.

Free Agency Signings/Trades of Note- This past Friday (7/5) was the first day NHL unrestricted free agents could sign with any other club they chose without their former club gaining any compensation. As a franchise philosophy (and unwritten franchise rule), the Sharks generally don't participate in this market though I would say this year they get a pass on it. The reason being is that they signed the UFA that matter most to them in Raffi Torres, and they also got Logan Couture under contract for the long term which they needed to do. There were some trades of moves of note though that saw some Western Conference rivals improve their lot and prospects for 2013-14:

Dallas Stars- Acquired centers Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverly and  prospect Ryan Button from Boston for forwards, the most notable being stalwart Star Loui Eriksson (who the Sharks aren't sorry to see head east), along with Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow. The Stars also traded for Shawn Horcoff from the Edmonton Oilers for defensemen Phillip Larsen and a seventh-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. These moves alone have turned the Stars from a fringe team to a true playoff contender. Though the Stars wont be in the Pacific Division anymore thanks to realignment, they will be serious players in the Western Conference especially when you consider both Detroit and Columbus are also now in the Eastern Conference. The Stars are arguably one the most improved teams in the Western Conference.

Anaheim Ducks- The Ducks are the Ducks, and they will be good simply because they make it a point to be a serious threat year in and year out. They won the Cup six seasons ago now, and still are feeding off of that as a franchise. Though they are the Sharks arch rival, you have to give credit where credit is due. They aren't there to be Disneyland's neighbor, they are there to win. The Ducks resigned Saku Koivu and Matt Beleskey, who are amongst the NHL's best grinders. The move though that peaks the Sharks interest is the trade of Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators. Of note is that the Sharks have one less player to deal with now who has been absolutely a thorn in their side. However others will take up for that loss. This and the fact Teemu Selanne at 42 maybe in better shape than Jack Lelanne was when he was 42. The Ducks will be the Ducks, expect nothing less. If you do, that's at your own risk.

St Louis Blues- Signed Derek Roy as a free agent. Roy basically can make any team better and will be an asset for the Blues.

Chicago Blackhawks- The Blackhawks re-sgined the two Michal's, Rozsival  and Handzus. Both players had key roles in Chicago's championship run. Rozsival inked a two year deal while former Shark Handzus signed on for the 2013-14 title defense campaign.

Nashville Predators- The Predators memory of the 2012-13, along side with the lockout was probably a campaign they want to forget. Friday the Preds began the process of putting last season on the rear view mirror with a huge splash in the free agency market. Nashville added forwards Viktor Stalburg from the Champion Blackawks, along with Eric Nystrom from Dallas, Matt Cullen from Minnesota and Matt Hendricks from Washington. These four players will make Nashville a player again in the Western Conference once again.

Phoenix Coyotes- After all of the drama with the Glendale City Council, the Coyotes have inked a deal with Glendale that will be good for the next five seasons. The franchise will change it's name to the Arizona Coyotes starting with the 2014-15 season. The Coyotes made a splash in the free agency market landing former Dallas Star and Washington Capital Mike Ribero and inking him to a four year, $22 Million contract. Goalie Thomas Greiss, who was not offered a contract by the Sharks, exited team teal for a new contract with the Coyotes.

Setoguchi Gets Dealt Again- Former Shark forward Devin Setoguchi's tenure as member of the Minnesota wild came to an end Friday (7/5). Setoguchi was traded by the Wild to the Winnipeg Jets for a second round pick in next year's re-entry draft. Setoguchi will be a positive impact for the Jets who also just acquired Michael Frolik from Chicago on a draft day deal last Sunday (6/30). Winnipeg is moving the the Western Conference this upcoming season. As a member of the Eastern Conference, the Jets had a decent shot at the post season up until the final week of the regular season when they were eliminated.

Former Sharks- Ryane Clowe signed a free agent deal with the New Jersey Devils. Clowe was traded from the Sharks to the New York Rangers on April 1st near this past season's trade deadline. Clowe's deal is five years at $24.5 Million. Former Shark Douglas Murray is an unrestricted free agent at this point and time after spending the later half of last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. A return to the Sharks, as it was with Clowe, is highly unlikely.

What Lies Ahead- The Sharks will be holding their inaugural Sharks Prospects Summer Scrimmage which will take place this next Thursday, July 11th. The Sharks management will get their first looks at drafted players from this year's re-entry draft as well as last year, including getting their first real looks at Thomas Hertl and Konrad Albeltshauser. Matt Tennyson, who saw time with team teal this season, will also be invovled. For a complete roster, click on this link:

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