After all of the pissing and moaning by Sharks fans (myself included) on July 1st and 2nd for Doug Wilson "sitting on his hands," the last 24 hours have provided PLENTY of change in the Silicon Valley.
First Rob Blake was signed to a 1-year, $5 million deal yesterday. A couple hours later, rumors were rampant that this would not deter Doug Wilson from further pursuing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle. Despite these reports, including David Pollack from the San Jose Mercury News saying that Wilson told him this directly, Senators, Thrashers, and especially Flyers fans were posting all over message boards that they were the front-runners to acquire Boyle, if in fact he decided to waive his no-trade clause.
Logically, why would Boyle waive his no trade clause for anyone rumored to be interested other than the Sharks? Ottawa is his hometown, but they no longer look to be a team that will challenge for the cup in the immediate future. When is the last time a team with one big offensive line, and a half-way decent goalie won the cup? Atlanta isn't even worth discussing when it comes to playoffs and Stanley Cups before 2020. The Flyers were the only team close to worth thinking about, but the Flyers roster just doesn't stand up to the firepower in San Jose.
In the end, Sharks fans woke up this morning to many websites reporting that Boyle had agreed to waive his no-trade clause in order to come to San Jose. A few hours later, the deal was solidified, and Boyle and Brad Lukowich were shipped to the Sharks for Matt Carle (who could be very good in the future, but was VERY disappointing last season), Ty Wishart (probably the Sharks second-best defensive prospect behind highly touted Nick Petrecki), a 1st round pick in 2009, and a 4th round pick in 2010.
Not even 2 hours later, the Sharks sent veteran defenseman Craig Rivet (their defensive leader in 2007-2008) to the Buffalo Sabres for a 2nd round pick in 2009 and a 2nd round pick in 2010.
All of this came so quick that fans are still trying to figure out how to react.
Here is my take:
Blake is a good acquisition because of his Stanley Cup experience, right-handed shot, and physical play. He made a lot of bone-head penalties in Los Angeles the last couple years, but playing on one of the worst teams in the NHL is not going to make anyone look very good. If this was the only thing Doug Wilson had done, I would not have been too happy as a Sharks fan. But having Blake in addition to Boyle is HUGE.
Boyle jumps right in to the spot previously occupied by Brian Campbell. Boyle is a similar player with a better shot, but no spin-o-rama. In the end, Boyle for a half-million dollars less than Campbell (who didn't want to stay on the West Coast anyway) works for me. Sharks fans are going to love him, and the equipment managers will find a way to keep his skates in his locker, not falling on his wrist.
Lukowich is a nice, veteran presence, and he fills a more physical role that the broken down Kyle McLaren used to fill. He won't throw bone-crunching hip-checks like McLaren, but if I'm not mistaken, Rob Blake is one of the best hip-checkers in the NHL.
Rivet will be missed, but because he makes $3.5 million a year, and salary cap space had to be created in order for the Sharks to keep Christian Ehrhoff and Ryan Clowe, Rivet had to go. Getting two 2nd round picks for a guy we originally traded a 1st round pick for is not too bad.
Carle and Wishart will be missed as well, but not this season. Carle struggled mightily last year, and Sharks fans were horrified by his enormous contract despite one good rookie season. With the departure of Carle and Rivet, the Sharks saved about $7 million per season, which is about what Boyle makes. In the end, giving up just one roster player (Carle, who didn't even play in some of the playoff games) for Boyle is a terrific job by Doug Wilson.
Best of all, the offense is all still completely intact.
I believe that Kyle McLaren will very likely be traded along with a pick for a low draft pick, just to get his $2.5 million off the books. This would also allow the Sharks to go after Owen Nolan and/or Bret Hedican. Nolan would look terrific on the 4th line, on the 2nd PP unit, and in the playoffs, while Hedican would be nice to have as a 7th defenseman in case of injury.
After all of the moves, here is what Sharks fans can expect to see when the season starts (once Ehrhoff and Clowe are signed):
I think we all owe Doug Wilson a big apology. Doug Wilson obviously was not sitting on his hands when it counted, and Wilson did a great job of acquiring talent without giving up too much. The Sharks are definitely ready for a major run at the Stanley Cup this season.
Western Conference Final - Sharks vs. Red Wings
Eastern Conference Final - Penguins vs. Flyers