On Wednesday, March 20 came two separate reports—NHL Trade Rumors and the Comcast Sports Net California (CSN) broadcast of that night's game—that there had been talks of trading Dan Boyle. The puck-moving defenseman was his usual candid self about the rumors:
I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s not fun to hear that. The only other time my name was involved was five years ago. Sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire, and I hope in this case, it’s not the case. It’s hard not to pay attention to that stuff.
The lack of denial from the Sharks could be an indication it is true. A much stronger indication is the logic of shopping him.
Wilson has less than two weeks to decide if this team has what it takes. The schedule before the April 3 NHL trade deadline should make things pretty clear.
They have games coming up at the Northwest Division-leading Minnesota Wild followed by the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on the road and at home. The last three games before the deadline are all at home against teams currently within two points of them on either side of the Western Conference standings.
Given they will be lucky to pick up points against division leaders on the road, they need to get real wins against teams at home to be considered worth betting more young talent on. Overtime losses and shootout wins are not the sign of a team ready to win games in May.
Of course, the Pacific Division rival and eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings were in a worse position when they made their deadline trade in 2012, and there were not that many more games to go. But in addition to their scoring drought, the Sharks have now given up three or more goals in eight straight games, leaving questions on both ends of the ice.
Expect the smoke surrounding a Boyle trade to linger until a statement is made. Either the Sharks begin to be reliable game-by-game, shift-by-shift so Wilson can go all-in, or he gets moved by the deadline. They cannot keep a defenseman who will be 37 before playing the last year of his nearly $6.7 million deal if they are going to rebuild.
They also cannot get rid of him if they do not rebuild. A player at his level and age is only going to be wanted by a team that needs to win the Stanley Cup now, and they are not going to give up a player that can help the Sharks do the same.
What about the trade a defenseman for a forward pattern of the Kings? A look at payrolls around the NHL on Cap Geek shows that the few teams with forwards to trade for blue line help are too strapped to take on additional salary or lack players they can move in return.
Even if they could find a deal that worked, San Jose solves no problems moving Boyle. The extra blue line depth is at the bottom, and he is the only player on that unit to be a true threat on the attack. Matt Irwin is flashing that now and Brent Burns has shown it before, but they cannot say they have more points than any defenseman in the NHL since he arrived.
Boyle also provides fiery leadership the Sharks lack. He and Ryane Clowe seem to take losing the hardest, and he has been the most accountable by being critical while producing at an elite rate. He is also one of just three everyday skaters on the roster to have won a Stanley Cup.
If Boyle is traded, they are playing for the future and many more core players could be traded—if not at the deadline, then in the summer.