What the Sharks plan to do with the No. 4 pick will be the marquee move in general manager Mike Grier’s second NHL Draft.
But building a roster capable of being a consistent playoff or even championship contender can’t be done solely at the top of the draft, even for the clubs that are bad enough to earn top-five selections over multiple seasons. Finding core players in the late first and second rounds is also critical.
When Grier hired Scott Fitzgerald as director of player personnel, one of his listed duties was a specific reflection of how vital the new regime believes the draft will be to the franchise’s success. Fitzgerald will act as an extra scout on players the Sharks believe could be drafted in the first two rounds.
The Sharks have the Nos. 26 and 36 picks in the 2023 NHL Draft, which gives Grier and company a lot of different options. They also don’t have another pick until near the end of the third round — No. 94 from Carolina in the Brent Burns trade. San Jose’s third-round choice in this draft went to Nashville in the Luke Kunin deal.
One option is obviously to stay put and select players at Nos. 26 and 36. The Sharks nabbed Filip Bystedt and Cam Lund at 27 and 34 a year ago, and those both look like quality decisions at this point.
What if they want to move up? Or move back? Or add an NHL player who can help next season? Let’s take a look at some recent trades that happened once the draft order was set that can help as a guide for what the Sharks could be looking at.
Option two: Trading up
TSN analyst and former NHL GM Craig Button said he sees this draft class having 20-22 players with top-six forward or top-four defenseman potential, and maybe that could stretch to 24. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman had a tier break at No. 20 in his updated rankings earlier this month which aligns similarly with Button’s outline.
It’s possible that someone in that group of 20 or so players drops to No. 26. It would be pretty stunning if Matvei Michkov drops much past the top 10, but fellow Russians Daniil But and Dmitri Simashev could slide toward the end of the first round.
What if there is someone the Sharks love who starts to fall? How aggressive can they be?
The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn created a draft pick trade value chart in 2020. The Nos. 26 and 36 picks have the same combined value as the No. 11 selection, according to Dom’s model. His model said the Sharks basically got the No. 45 selection in the trade with Arizona at the draft last year for free.
We know from a year ago that Nos. 26 and 36 alone aren’t likely to be worth No. 11 on the trade market, especially when the narrative about this class is it’s a strong one.
Here are some other similar moves from recent drafts:
2021 – Detroit trades Nos. 23, 48 and 138 for No. 15
The Red Wings went up to grab goaltender Sebastian Cossa. Nashville has No. 15 this season and Calgary is at No. 16. Of all the teams in the 11-20 range, the Predators and Flames could be the ones most interested in adding extra picks. Both also have first-year GMs, just like the Sharks did when they moved back a year ago.
San Jose offering Nos. 26 and 36 for No. 15 or No. 16 would be a fair deal for both sides — the math says it’s a slight win for Nashville/Calgary, but the general public would probably see it as a slight victory for the Sharks. And if the deal is done because Michkov has slipped that far … San Jose leaving Nashville with Leo Carlsson or Will Smith and Michkov would make the Sharks a slam-dunk winner in every next-day draft column in North America.
2020 – N.Y. Rangers trade Nos. 22 and 72 for No. 19
2018 – N.Y. Rangers trade Nos. 26 and 48 for No. 22
2016 – Winnipeg trades Nos. 22 and 36 for Nos. 18 and 79
There are several other trades like these ones as well. The blueprint is similar — trade a pick in the 20s and a later one, usually in the third round, to move up a few spots. The Jets actually gave up more value than the Sharks have to go up four spots, but also added a third-rounder.
If the Sharks wanted to move up from No. 26 and use No. 94 as the bait, that’s probably only getting them two, maybe three spots at the most.
San Jose is projected to have nearly $15 million in cap space, per CapFriendly. A couple of teams have used cap flexibility as a weapon to move up in the draft recently.
2022 – Arizona gets Zack Kassian ($3.2 million cap hit), No. 29, a 2024 third-round pick and a 2025 second from Edmonton for No. 32
2022 – Chicago gets Petr Mrazek ($3.8 million) and No. 25 from Toronto for No. 38
Arizona has been making deals like this for a while, but Chicago joined the fray last year as well. The Penguins and Rangers are two clubs, among others, that could desperately use more cap space. San Jose could use its flexibility to move up from No. 26 or No. 36 by taking on a “bad” contract.
The Coyotes made a pair of trades like this in 2021 and one of them netted Shayne Gostistbehere, who revived his career and netted Arizona an additional third-round pick at the deadline from Carolina.
Option three: Trading down
Here’s a secret about how drafts go: No team ever takes the No. 26 player on its list at No. 26. The way teams evaluate is just too different/subjective.
That said, if the best players on San Jose’s list are flying off the board as the draft reaches the 20s, or if the scouting staff just really loves a few guys that are likely to be selected in the second round, moving back from No. 26 or No. 36 might make some sense. Not having another pick until No. 94 could mean the Sharks have to watch someone they really want get drafted in the 40s or 50s.
Here are a few recent deals where a club picking in the 20s moved back …
2021 – Carolina trades No. 27 for Nos. 40 and 51
2018 – Toronto trades No. 25 for Nos. 29 and 76
2017 – Chicago trades No. 26 for Nos. 29 and 70
The Hurricanes landed Scott Morrow with the 40th pick in 2021, and he’d easily be a first-rounder if we redid that draft now. If the Sharks have a few players they still really like as No. 26 approaches, moving back a few spots and adding another third-round pick would be a strong move, according to the math.
No. 26 is worth 0.3 wins more on average than No. 29, according to Dom’s model, while every pick through No. 91 is worth at least twice that (0.6 or more). Each of those three deals listed above was a sound move for the team that moved down, per Dom’s model.
Option four: Trading for help now
These are the deals that draw lots of attention on draft day …
2022 – Los Angeles trades No. 19 and Brock Faber for Kevin Fiala
2022 – New Jersey trades No. 37 and No. 70 for Vitek Vanecek and No. 46
2021 – Columbus trades No. 44 for Jake Bean
2021 – Detroit trades Richard Panik and No. 52 for Nick Leddy
2021 – New Jersey trades Mikhail Maltsev and No. 61 for Ryan Graves
2021 – Los Angeles trades Nos. 40 and 81 for Viktor Arvidsson
2020 – Ottawa trades No. 52 and Jonathan Gruden for Matt Murray
Ah, we’re back to talking about timelines now. Using the No. 26 or No. 36 pick to trade for a veteran, win-now type of player is probably not a wise move for the Sharks. Everyone probably agrees on that.
That said, Grier has used a variation of the phrase “we want to flip this as quickly as possible” on multiple occasions. Trading for a young player, ideally with several years of team control left, could make some sense.
That’s what the Henry Thrun trade was about — he’s going to help the Sharks a lot sooner than the draft pick he was dealt for, but San Jose can also have Thrun around for a while. The Blue Jackets made a similar move for Bean.
This could also be the way San Jose tries to solve its goaltending quandary, much like the Devils and Senators tried to do.
The Sharks could use No. 26 or No. 36 on Michael Hrabal, the near-consensus top goalie available in this draft. Both Pronman and Scott Wheeler feel that’s a pick that would make some sense for the Sharks.
San Jose could also flip one of those picks for a goalie who can be their starter right now, and there could be a number of interesting netminders available this offseason.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)