The offseason may have just begun for the San Jose Sharks, but it’s never too early to start thinking of some trades the New Jersey Devils can make. Fresh off their Western Conference finals loss to the St. Louis Blues, San Jose is going to find itself asking what it can do to get themselves ready for the 2019-20 NHL season. For today’s DAB Trade series, we take a look at our Bay Area counterparts, the San Jose Sharks.
Despite their playoff loss, the Sharks are in a good, but yet interesting position. They have their aging veterans such as franchise legend Jumbo Joe Thornton, their unrestricted free agent superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson, but they also have their solid young(er) core of Evander Kane, Timo Meier, and Logan Couture. Not to mention that Martin Jones showed that once he’s on his game, there’s little to no stopping him after an off year this past season. Point is, sharks may not be in the mood for drastic changes, but some players that the Devils should be interested in may be available.
Labanc is the Sharks third-line right wing, and he’d be the perfect player for the rebuilding Devils. The 23-year-old has shown steady increases in point production since first breaking into the NHL in the 2016-17 season. His 2018-19 totals came in at 17 goals and 39 assists for 56 points while playing in every one of the Sharks 82 regular season games. In the playoffs, he added four goals and five assists in 20 postseason games. He plays the role of a bottom-six forward on the Sharks but could easily be playing second line minutes on the Devils with his skill.
Labanc would give an immediate boost to the Devils’ power play that struggled most of this past season. 20 of his 56 points came on the man advantage with San Jose, which was ranked sixth overall this past season in the NHL. Labanc’s shooting percentage also took a dramatic leap from 7.2% to 13.1% this past season, nearly doubling. All signs point for things only to get better for him. Plus, he grew up playing on the New Jersey Devils junior hockey team, so a reunion between the two might be Kyle Palmieri-
Here’s the catch, Labanc isn’t signed for next season. He’s a restricted free agent coming off of his entry-level deal, meaning that if the Devils make a trade before San Jose signs him, it would only be for the rights to negotiate a new contract. With all signs pointing to the Devils and Labanc being a good fit, they could secure his right for the cheap price of a third or fourth-round draft pick and then sign him to a deal post-trade. Obviously, San Jose would love to keep a player of his caliber, but the Sharks have a lot of difficult decisions to make in terms of signings this offseason. Gustav Nyquist, acquired via trade from the Detroit Red Wings, and bottom-six forward Joonas Donskoi are both UFAs the Sharks would like to hold onto. Meanwhile, Erik Karlsson is a UFA, and if the Sharks want to make a serious push at re-signing him, the cap space they save in moving Labanc could be extremely valuable. Besides, Labanc is sure to want a pay increase, and that price might be too high for the Sharks to justify.
The Devils need a large, right-handed defenseman. In every article I’ve written for the trade series, I’ve tried to find one player from each team who fits that bill because it’s an obvious need for this Devils’ team. From the Sharks, the best player to choose would be Justin Braun.
The Sharks are a team of immense defensive talent, and as much as we’d all love to see a nearly point-per-game defenseman like Brent Burns come to New Jersey, the asking price would be way too high. Justin Braun’s 16 points in 78 games may pale in comparison, but those numbers aren’t necessarily bad for a stay at home defenseman. He might not have the flashy scoring touch of Karlsson or Burns, but he would be an outstanding addition to the Devils’ struggling blue line.
The Devils have to be cautious, for their experience in trading for defense man from San Jose isn’t exactly stellar with Mirco Mueller. Plus, Braun may be younger than Andy Greene, but he’s still on the wrong side of 30 (31 to be exact). Without a doubt, he’s still got a solid few years left in him, but his shelf life as a productive defenseman will start to trickle down after five years max. How willing are the Sharks
The Case For Erik Karlsson
Like was said earlier in this article, star defenseman Erik Karlsson is a pending unrestricted free agent. Up until July 1st, the Sharks can trade his rights to another team for a small price to have the first chance at signing him. If no deal is done before July 1st, that team, more or less, traded for nothing.
Erik Karlsson would be an outstanding addition to the Devils’ defense and would be their first true defensive superstar since Scott
The Devils should definitely pursue Karlsson in free agency, but wait until you can sign him without compensation to San Jose. Sure, there will be competition, but at least if they miss out, it won’t cost anything. Ray Shero could just move onto the next one.