The San Jose Sharks have a trio of "big fish" for the trade market this year. When the season starts Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will all begin collecting paychecks for the last year of their current contracts, with no extension for any of the three. You can consider this season, from opening night until the trade deadline, an evaluation year.
I can't envision a scenario where Dan Boyle remains a Shark past the deadline this year, I just can't do it. It doesn't make any sense to keep Boyle over what a possible return could yield. Boyle is 37 years old and has been on an offensive decline for the last few seasons. The Sharks have only selected three players in the first round of the last six NHL Draft's, a Boyle deal could bump up this years first round selections. Here's my opinion on Boyle's value at the deadline.
1st Rd Pick, Winger Prospect
1st Rd Pick, NHL Winger
1st Rd Pick, Defensive Prospect
If the Sharks are going to make a deal with a team with an almost guaranteed destiny of a late first round pick I'd like to see the return increased a touch, possibly a third round pick.
If you look at the return that aging veterans are gathering for their former clubs from teams that are looking to go deep into the post-season these aren't out of line. Out of the three players, Boyle will get the least return, but as long as it involves a first round pick it's a good deal for San Jose. A Boyle deal may have to start as a 2nd that evolves into a 1st if he re-signs with the gaining club. If that's the case then there should be more involved in the deal beyond what I've viewed above.
After Dan Boyle it gets tricky.
I don't envision all three being dealt. I do envision two of the three, though. So, who is the player that will be left standing in teal at the deadline?
Marleau v. Thornton
From 2004-2009 Patrick Marleau was the captain of the San Jose Sharks. A former 2nd overall selection by the Sharks, Marleau holds team records for goals and points in the regular season and playoffs. Marleau carries a career pts/game average of 0.74 in the regular season, and 0.69 in the playoffs.
Since coming over in 2005, Joe Thornton has accumulated the most assists in Sharks history in the regular season and playoffs. Jumbo Joe is second on the all-time points list and has had a 1.12 pts/gm average during his tenure with the Sharks in the regular season. In the playoffs he holds a 0.88 pts/gm average. Thornton is also the current captain of the Sharks.
It's not often that a captain, with a long history on a team, gets stripped of the 'C' and remains with the club. That's the case with Marleau, who picked up the captaincy a year before Thornton arrived, suggesting to some that the Sharks may have wish they waited on giving out the 'C'. Rob Blake held the letter in the transition period before Thornton took over. So, really, how emotionally attached to Marleau are the Sharks?
Both players will be 34 when the season starts, making them 35 when they enter their new contracts, wherever that may be.
The easiest answer to who gets dealt would be to look at the return. Thornton, in my mind, generates a better return than Marleau. That's the easy answer.
Thornton brings with him a, still effective, playmaking game that is hard to find. He's a big center with a tank that is still full is skill. The difference between scorers and playmakers is the rate of their decline. A playmaker can have more success in his later years than a scorer on more occasions than not. You don't have to skate 100mph to make a beautiful pass. You don't have to use agility in the slot to get yourself open for a shot when you're making a pass.
If Thornton is the answer to who stands alone in teal, then what happens to Pavelski? Little Joe was signed to a big contract, seemingly to move up to the top-six unit. If Thornton stays then you have Couture-Thornton as your top six centers, leaving Pavelski on the third line again.
Patrick Marleau was, once upon a time, a center. The Sharks effectively transitioned him to the wing. Take a look at Pavelski's statistics over his career:
Points Reg Season - 0.70 per game
Points Playoffs - 0.68 per game
Look familiar? That's because they are dangerously similar to Patrick Marleau's career numbers. If Pavelski transitioned to the wing he would, essentially, become a younger Patrick Marleau. You now have Pavelski, and his new contract, in the top-six. The only question is, however, can Pavelski make the switch? That's a question that needs time to be answered and we'll only find out of Marleau is in the departing class of this years deadline.
When push comes to shove, I think Thornton has more success left in him than Marleau does on the scoresheet. The answer, if choosing between the two, is to keep Thornton and transition Pavelski to the wing. The Sharks can re-sign Thornton at the end of the season and possibly dangle him at another deadline in the future.
What about Marleau's value? Previous to the lockout-shortened season, Marleau had a string of 4 straight 30+ goal seasons, with a 40+ in there as well, and had 17 goals in the lockout year (a 29 goal total in an 82 game year). He's still a quality top six player.
1st Rd Pick, 2 Prospects
1st Rd Pick, Good Prospect, NHL Winger
1st Rd Pick, 3-4 Defenceman, Average Prospect
The values for Boyle and Marleau are simply suggestions based off of previous deadline deals involving similar players of age. They can both be a big help to a team looking to move deeper into the playoffs and provide San Jose with more building blocks to keep the success of the team moving forward without going into a rebuild in the future. History has the Sharks avoiding rebuilds, dealing Boyle and Marleau would continue that trend.
So, if I had to pick one of the three to retain, it would be Thornton regardless of depth at center. His style of play will carry the most effectiveness as he streaks towards the end of his career. I don't think the Sharks are in a position to let all of their veteran leadership go, so keeping Thornton would allow the Shark Way to get further engrained in Logan Couture and the players he will inherit.
Thanks for reading!
Stay icy, Sharks fans.