They’ve been a poor team for two years now with an aging roster and seemingly nothing they can do to fix it. The issue with the Sharks is that they have so much money tied up in bad contracts that they can’t add anyone else to help immediately but also can’t move those overpriced contracts for assets to try and rebuild.
As of now, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier are probably the only players on the roster who carry significant trade value, based on their age and short-term contracts. This makes a rebuild difficult, because moving only two players probably isn’t a big enough shift to effectively rebuild.
But just for fun, let's see what a potential rebuild could look like.
A rebuild should start with Hertl being dealt for picks and prospects, considering his age and expiring contract. Whether or not Meier is dealt as part of a rebuild should be more up for debate considering his age, but it shouldn’t be ruled out.
As for the other contracts though: while some of the contracts truly are immovable based on their term and the age of the player, others can be moved, the Sharks just wouldn’t get a great return on them, based on their AAV. If the Sharks truly committed to a teardown though and were willing to retain significant salary in trades, an effective rebuild is possible for the Sharks.
How much would someone be willing to give up for Evander Kane at $7 million? There would likely be some bidders, but the return probably wouldn’t be wildly high in this market, even with Kane coming off an extremely productive year. However, if the Sharks committed to a rebuild over the next few years, they should be willing to retain significant salary for any contracts. Even if it’s not half the salary, the Sharks should be willing to retain a ton of money to lower the cap hit, considering that as a rebuilding team, it’s not like the Sharks need the cap space. With a much lower cap hit, all of a sudden Kane looks extremely attractive option to teams at a very good price with term remaining.
When you look at the contracts with retained salary, how many of the them really can’t be moved? Probably only those with significant term remaining, being Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, plus Martin Jones, of course. The Sharks are able to retain salary on three players, totalling 15 per cent of the salary cap, and they should take advantage of this. Plus, the Sharks have so few players to worry about re-signing over the next few years that the retained salary won’t cause any issues.
The likes of Kane, Labanc and potentially even Burns could likely all be moved for very good returns with retained salary and the Sharks would receive quality assets in return to kickstart a rebuild. So yes, the team could retain nearly $10 million on those deals (which could be an unrealistic number) – and it’s something that ownership would have to commit to as well. But it would also free up nearly $10 million to sign other players on short-term deals to fill in the gaps, then flip them for picks and prospects later to help move along the rebuild, and would leave enough room to re-sign any players who come off their entry-level contracts during the rebuilding process.
It’s important to note that Burns and Kane do have pretty airtight no-trade clauses, with only three teams they can be traded to. However, there’s certainly a chance they’d be willing to waive it to go to a contender, if presented with a good opportunity.
If the Sharks were able to retain significant salary on other players, they could truly commit to a rebuild and get a sizable return for players whose contracts seem overpriced right now. While it ensures probably at least three years of having a very weak team, it would be better to start the process now and be in a much better place a few years down the line, rather than delaying the process.
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Would you be in favour of the Sharks retaining significant salary on contracts to get back better assets as part of a rebuild?