The NHL combine may not get the press of the NFL combine, but the event that is more important to the international community is running from May 26-30. Much more of the world is represented in the 119 invitees to Toronto, ON. As the selection order in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft on June 27 takes shape, the San Jose Sharks are scheduled for 20th.
Of course, that could change with a trade. There has been a lot of speculation the Sharks might try to force a trade on either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, both of whom are entering the front end of a three-year deal that the invaluable Cap Geek lists as having a no movement clause.
That means the general manager Doug Wilson can neither waive nor trade either of them without their consent. That does not mean they cannot be moved, but it does limit his options. Since both will play their first game on the next contract at the age of 35, they will not want to go to teams that are not close to being contenders.
Marleau may not want to go anywhere. He has lived in San Jose since before his 18th birthday and is the face of the franchise. Despite his role on a few of the annual Stanley Cup playoff failures, the man from a farm outside a town of 45 people may be the most popular person in the 10th-largest city in America—one so heavily-populated partially because of its great weather, to boot.
That makes Thornton the biggest trade bait. He is not as deeply tied to the Sharks because he joined the team more than six years later—he had not even played half his games in teal until last season was underway. He also may not be so accepting of staying with the team after almost certainly having his captaincy ripped from him as Marleau did.
Thornton never understood that he played best when he played with anger. Neither he nor Marleau understood that San Jose needed a captain that was more demanding to lead the team away from its tendency to get comfortable.
It is time for some change, and Wilson could get almost any pick he wanted for moving Thornton. However, there are few teams the future Hall of Famer would accept going to that would to create an opportunity for the NHL draft to match the return the Sharks could get on a young player ready to step into an every-day role.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may be one option. They hold the eighth pick, but the Stanley Cup-starved headquarters of the Hockey Hall of Fame was actually close to having its team return to the playoffs a year after nearly winning their first-round series. The biggest thing it have lacked is a legitimate first-line centre (as spelled in Canada's largest city).
The eighth pick for Thornton plus either Jonathan Bernier stepping up or signing Jonas Hiller or Ryan Miller makes this team a true contender in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is also less than two hours from home to add even more appeal.
There really is no other team with a top-10 pick Thornton is likely to accept a trade to. Despite a draft with some real talent, there are few players worth trading up to get.
Wilson's draft board is certainly set, just as it is for the rest other NHL teams. Every general manager almost certainly has Samuel Bennett, Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl off their board by the eighth pick.
However, the first person on the photo list that includes details of each player's fit for San Jose would be worth a trade if he is still on the board when the Maple Leafs are scheduled to pick. The other four are solid alternatives that might involve a trade to move up a few places or may in fact be available for Wilson with the 20th pick.