Who's in: Dany Heatley, Manny Malhotra, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer
Who's out: Brian Boucher, Jonathan Cheechoo, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Mike Grier, Claude Lemieux, Milan Michalek, Travis Moen, Tomas Plihal, Jeremy Roenick, Alexei Semenov
Outlook: Pressed flush against the salary cap all summer, the Sharks stood pat well into August, adding only checker Scott Nichol via free agency and locking up Rob Blake, Kent Huskins and Ryane Clowe on new contracts. Exiting stage left were really only minor parts, however, with Mike Grier and Travis Moen constituting the biggest losses in the early going.
GM Doug Wilson swung for the fences in September, however, landing sniper Dany Heatley in exchange for similar salaries in Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo, and his presence up front gives Joe Thornton an elite trigger man. In order to ease the cap crunch, Wilson also dumped some major salary in a deal to Vancouver, shuttling out defencemen Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich for depth prospects.
A lot went right for San Jose last season, including the fact seven players topped 50 points, so much of coach Todd McLellan's challenge will be in simply getting his troops to perform up to the same level. This is a team down considerable depth throughout the lineup, and injuries to key performers could potentially be devastating given how top heavy this crew is. The signing of Manny Malhotra will help, especially defensively, but how players like Torrey Mitchell and Jamie McGinn fare in much larger roles will be a factor.
(Not having a veteran backup for Evgeni Nabokov could also come back to bite the Sharks, although that's a sacrifice more and more teams are making due to the salary cap.)
Ultimately, because of what's happening with the teams in the Pacific Division, however, San Jose is the easy favourite to again win the division and finish near the top of the Western Conference. Bringing in Heatley could be a home run if he pots 60 goals alongside Thornton, but his salary and recent history brings along with it some cause for concern.
Make no mistake, this is a good team — but one not without some warts.
X-factor: Joe Pavelski
Where will the Sharks finish in the Western Conference this season?
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349 total votes