The San Jose Sharks are hot right now. The team has won three straight and 12 of 17 dating back to December 1st. They are within striking distance of the Pacific Division and Western Conference lead, just three points back of the Calgary Flames. After a slow start, both Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are playing Norris-caliber hockey and the offense is among the best in the league. Everything appears to be going well.
Yet, one can’t help but notice that the Sharks continue to get poor results from their goaltending. As they countdown to the Trade Deadline next month, TSN notes that San Jose could certainly be in the market for another goalie. San Jose is dead last in even strength save percentage and starter Martin Jones is among the worst starting goaltenders in the NHL statistically this season. Jones has an .899 save percentage and 2.82 goals against average in 32 games so far, while backup Aaron Dell has struggled even more, holding an .890 save percentage and 3.10 goals against average. Both keepers are fortunate to be playing in San Jose, where the Sharks allow a league-low 28.1 shots per game, but against superior competition – such as in the postseason – Jones and Dell will be exposed if they don’t improve.
The current trade market, unquestionably a buyer’s market, is likely to feature many legitimate goalies for the Sharks. Even if the team doesn’t want to meet the price for a keeper like Detroit’s Jimmy Howard or Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, the options are aplenty. Cam Talbot (EDM), Craig Anderson (OTT), Keith Kinkaid (NJD), Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney (CAR), and Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth (PHI) should be available for the Sharks to scoop up. While Jones and even Dell may have been better than the majority of this group in recent years, the season is more than halfway over and the Sharks keepers’ numbers speak for themselves. San Jose won’t be the only buyer in the goalie market, but they are seemingly guaranteed to land another keeper if they want one and the cost shouldn’t be too high. The team will have close to $4MM in cap space available at the trade deadline and would just have to find a way to carry three goaltenders for the rest of the season while staying cap compliant.
The more interesting question is whether the Sharks will also look into a more long-term solution, either ahead of the deadline or in the coming off-season. Jones and Dell, both 29 years old, each played well last season and were superb in 2016-17. However, if the team is losing faith in the duo, they may try to move Jones – in the first season of a six-year, $34.5MM deal – and replace him via trade or with a top free agent, such as Sergei Bobrovsky or even Los Angeles Kings rival Jonathan Quick. The team may also opt to simply upgrade his backup, moving on from Dell, who is signed through next season, in favor of a superior veteran option. So long as the Sharks play to their current level, that of a real Stanley Cup contender, GM Doug Wilson and company will have to do everything they can to give the team a shot at its first title.