My feelings about the month of August? Bad, boo, bleh, blah, barf, boring, it's a total abomination.
As an author alliterations are amazing.
August though? As a hockey writer? August is death.
It is the one month of the year where nothing sigificant is on the NHL calendar.
Yours truly isn't the only one feeling and fighting the August blues. Ian Reid over at Pucknology had this tweet earlier in the month. Let's just say the August hockey writer struggles are real.
We're still weeks away from training camp. The World Cup tournament will be here soon, but it remains to be seen how well that tournament will be received as a meaningful event with teams of mashed up countries like Team North America and Team Europe.
While we wait for meaningful hockey to come back into our lives, we're left with little to specuate about. However, as the San Jose Sharks head into the 2016-17 season, there are a few players that might have their days in teal numbered.
Preseason and early regular season trades aren't incredibly common, but the Sharks could be looking to move some assets in the near future. Without further ado, here are the five Sharks players/prospects most likely to be dealt in the near future.
5. Mirco Mueller (D)
The Sharks drafted Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller 18th overall back in 2013. After spending one more year in junior, a 19-year old Mueller made the Sharks out of training camp and showed flashes of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-like potential. Unfortunately, most of his rookie season was proof that he was nowhere near ready to play in the NHL. At 6-feet, three inches, he has the frame to grow into a physical monster to go along with his tremendous skating and defensive stick. In 39 NHL games during 2014-15, it was clear that the game was just too fast for Mueller in terms of puck movement.
With the Sharks reinforcing their blue line with veteran Paul Martin, Mueller spent most of last season with the Sharks AHL affiliate, the brand new San Jose Barracuda. Mueller played only 11 NHL games in his second profession season and the reports of his play with the Barracuda were mixed at best. It is not uncommon to hear those who followed the Barracuda closely to say that Mueller was a disappointment.
Mueller won't turn 22 until March and still has time to turn his development around. That said, this is a big year for the former first-round pick. In 50 games with the Barracuda, Mueller only he chipped home 11 points. Meanwhile, the smaller yet still swift skating teammate Joakim Ryan tallied 28 points in 66 games.
Ryan, who played four years at Cornell, was drafted by the Sharks in the seventh round just a year earlier in 2012. Perhaps Ryan's work ethic as a long shot has put him in a better chance to succeed. It will be interesting to see who gets the first call up between these two left-handed shooting defensemen if/when the Sharks need to recall a left-shot defenseman at some point this year.
If the Sharks want to get something in return for Mueller, they might want to move him sooner rather than later. Another disappointing year in the AHL and Mueller's value as a former No. 1 will be all but gone.
4. Melker Karlsson (RW/LW)
Melker Karlsson came out of nowhere in 2014-15 to enjoy some significant success on the Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski line. An unsung free-agent addition out of Sweden, Karlsson was never a big scorer in his native homeland. The expectations placed on him based off his brief initial success with the Sharks are unfair. When he missed time at the start of this past season, first year head coach Pete DeBoer would refer to him as a top-six forward. The reality of the matter is that he is not a top-six forward. Remember T.J. Galiardi? He had a brief stint of success with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns on what was then the top line. But then he fizzled out.
For as much as many Sharks fans adore the 26-year-old Karlsson, he could very easily be the odd man out. His role has since diminished to that of a fourth line guy. While his hockey sense is top notch and he does have a few flashy moves up his sleeve, he isn't the finisher nor playmaker anywhere near the level of a Joonas Donskoi or Tomas Hertl.
The fact of that matter is Karlsson can get pushed around easily at just 6-feet, 180 pounds and he doesn't have the speed nor scoring touch to make up for it. He can be a really good fourth liner and an average third liner for this team moving forward or he could be trade bait. Karlsson is set to make $1.6 million this upcoming season and while that doesn't break the bank, the Sharks could use some more wiggle room underneath the cap.
With cheaper young veterans like Matt Nieto and Chris Tierney already likely to see fourth line ice time, and players like Nikolay Goldobin, Ryan Carpenter and Barclay Goodrow in the system, moving Karlsson while his stock remains decently high, could be wise. If the Sharks could turn Karlsson, a seemingly random free agent depth signing into a third-round pick, that would be a win.
3. Matt Nieto (LW/RW)
Of course if the Sharks decide they would prefer to keep Karlsson, they could also move out the 23-year-old Nieto. The Long Beach native signed an extremely cheap one-year deal worth a mere 735,000 as a restricted free agent this offseason. That is nearly 200,000 less than the entry level contract for Donskoi.
Nieto looked prime to be a solid top-9, if not top-6 forward as a a rookie when he finished the 2013-14 season sparkling down the stretch on a line with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture. Unfortunately since then, it has been mostly downhill production wise for the speedy forward. He does do a tremendous job driving play and getting in on the forecheck, but his finishing skills leave a lot to be desired.
As a fourth line winger with the skills to move up lines when necessary, Nieto does bring plenty of value for such a low salary, but that also means other teams may be more willing to part with a draft pick. Obviously Karlsson and Nieto aren't both likely to be traded. Either one though could end up wearing a different sweater sooner rather than later.
2. Brenden Dillon (D)
If one weakness stood out more than any other for the Sharks in their run to the Stanley Cup final last year, it was the play of their third defense pair. Granted, most of the poor play from the third pair was the fault of the departed Roman Polak. The right-handed bruiser was never a good fit as Dillon's partner.
Both Dillon and Polak play the same physical, stay-at-home style as they each struggle to move the puck. This offseason, the Sharks have replaced Polak with a much more adept puck mover in David Schlemko. Therefore, Dillon's game should improve. But by how much?
The Sharks have Dillon signed for another four years at $3.27 million per season. That is a hefty cap hit for a player who hasn't proved he can be anything more than a No. 5 defender. Considering the left-handed Schlemko can play both left and right, the left-handed Dillon could be expendable depending on the growth of guys like aformentioned lefties Mueller and Ryan, as well as right-handed youngsters like Dylan Demelo and Tim Heed.
Given Dillon's level of performance last season, it might be hard to even find a taker for the 25-year old with that kind of contract. The Sharks would be smart to try and get it off their books even if the return is minimal. The cap space would be the big return.
1. Tommy Wingels (RW)
On a personal note, this is probably the hardest section for me to write. In my time covering the Sharks with media access, Tommy Wingels was one of the best guys in that room. Wingels is an incredibly polite, engaging and an all around good guy (as cliche as that may sound). For a couple of years there Wingels was also a key role player for the Sharks. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, Wingels scored 15 and 16 goals, tallying 38 and 36 points respectively. It wasn't just the quality offenisve production though. Wingels did all the little things right. He forechecked hard, backchecked hard, won his 50-50 battles and seemingly changed at the right time every shift.
This past season though the 28-year-old Wingels took a big step back. His goal total dropped to seven, and his point output fell to 18. He even ended up as a healthy scratch at times during the postseason. Flaws in his defensive coverage that were easy to overlook when he was producing offensively stood out far more often and it simply might be good for a change of scenery in this case.
Wingels plays a hard nosed game, and is great at drawing penalties. With just one-year left on his contract, he could be very attractive to teams looking to bolster their bottom-six with some energy and scoring touch. At a cap hit of $2.45 million, the Sharks would get some nice wiggle room under the cap by moving Wingels and would likely get a mid-round pick back in return. It simply makes too much sense at this point to move out No. 57 if the right deal comes along.