Thursday, March 28, 2013
Rumblings: What will Sharks, Predators do?
By Pierre LeBrun
The San Jose Sharks responded to the trading of Douglas Murray by going out and outscoring Anaheim 9-3 in a home-and-home sweep.
It’s not clear whether those two things are connected, but the fact remains that, in the wake of a popular teammate being dealt to Pittsburgh, the Sharks have looked like world beaters this week.
Pride at play here?
Players in that dressing room are well aware that Ryane Clowe -- like Murray a pending unrestricted free agent -- might also be dealt before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
But it’s clear they’re not going to wave the white towel. And why would they? They’re sitting in a playoff spot.
"We just feel like we’re still going to make the playoffs, to be honest with you," captain Joe Thornton told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We feel like we have a real good team still. There’s no reason for us not to make the playoffs. We’re sitting in eighth right now. We think if we take care of business at home right now we’ll be in."
The Sharks opened a seven-game homestand Wednesday night with a 4-0 waxing of the Ducks, and they host Detroit on Thursday night. This homestand is crucial to the season, as the Sharks finish with six of their final 10 games on the road.
They need to bank points now in order to get in.
In the meantime, Sharks GM Doug Wilson on a media call Monday in the wake of the Murray trade talked openly about his team heading for a "reset" or "refresh" -- basically retooling on the fly.
Frankly, you can’t blame Wilson. He got excellent value for Murray by receiving a second-round pick plus a second or third, depending on Pittsburgh’s playoff success. That’s a huge haul for Murray. In a year in which it’s a sellers’ market, why not cash in on a few pieces after years and years of going for it.
Clowe or fellow pending UFA Michal Handzus could be next.
I asked the Sharks captain if he has been privy to what the GM is up to and how he feels about it all.
"I haven’t talked to Dougie. Not at all," said Thornton. "But I saw his comments. When someone gets traded, everyone looks at themselves and says, 'Am I next?' But as a team, I think we can hopefully come together with Dougie getting traded and play some better hockey."
Well, Thornton isn’t going anywhere. He has a full no-move clause, and Wilson, I don’t think, is not even thinking about that right now. He is focused on his UFAs.
But the offseason will be an interesting time as the Sharks continue to deliberate how they’re going to retool their team.
Thornton, 33, has one more year left on his deal at a $7 million cap hit. And he remains a really productive player.
But it’s fair to ask where Thornton fits in if the team is getting younger in the offseason.
"Yeah, but you’re so caught up in the moment right now. You can’t think about tomorrow," said Thornton. "We’ll wait and see. Right now I’m just focused on the next game."
The best story in San Jose this spring might be a team divesting itself of two or three pending UFAs and making a playoff run with the remaining core. That would not surprise me one bit.
Preds hit deadline quagmire
A year ago there was zero hesitation.
The Nashville Predators were a contender, and they were adding. Alexander Radulov came back from Russia, Andrei Kostitsyn and Hal Gill were brought in from Montreal, and a first-round pick was sacrificed to haul in Paul Gaustad from Buffalo.
The Preds, much like the Pittsburgh Penguins right now, were all-in.
It didn’t pan out, with a disappointing second-round exit to Phoenix and the whole Radulov curfew saga to boot, but I can’t blame GM David Poile for going for it last season. He had a very good team in a wide-open West, and after years and years of careful planning, he spent some of his piled-up assets to make his team better.
This year is different. The Predators have had an up-and-down season and going into Thursday’s game at home against Phoenix sat two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Right on the bubble less than a week away from the trade deadline, what’s the plan?
"I’m day-to-day," said Poile with a chuckle in a conversation with ESPN.com on Wednesday. "Call me after all the games are over on the night of April 2. It’ll be a touch bit clearer."
Buy or sell? Or do nothing?
It’s tough to know for Nashville, just like this whole season has been somewhat strange for everyone.
"This 48-game schedule is not normal. Everything about it is not normal. The condensed schedule, the travel, especially for us in the West, it’s all different," said Poile. "And consequently I have to imagine the trade deadline is different. ...
"Maybe for the majority of teams, status quo might be a good position to be in come the trading deadline, based on the closeness of the races."
The Predators need a scoring forward in the worst way, sitting 24th in the league in offense.
They have been linked to pending UFA Derek Roy, who plays for a Stars team that began Thursday just one point behind Nashville in the standings. Not quite sure how that deal would work between two teams battling for a playoff spot.
Then again, the Stars already moved pending UFA Brenden Morrow, and the Sharks -- the team two points ahead of Nashville -- have moved Murray and may move Clowe.
As Poile said, it’s not a normal year.
"San Jose did what they wanted to do with Douglas Murray, and Dallas did what they felt was best with Brenden Morrow. I don’t think it means anything more or less about their belief of making the playoffs," said Poile. "I don’t think it’s a sign they’re giving up at all."
For Poile, his plan is shifting minute by minute.
"Ask me again after Thursday’s game," he said.