Sharks and Penguins, Potential Top Buyers In NHL Free Agency


With the NHL Draft completed, and the trade market having simmered down (for the most part), tomorrow brings open season when it comes to teams scooping up players via the NHL free agency bonanza. We have witnessed teams like the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins reshape the cornerstones of their respective rosters and organizations with trades over the last week, but now the question turns to: Which teams will be buyers? And who will be in their crosshairs? The following are the two teams that I believe will (or need to in some instances) make big waves on July 1st, albeit for a different underlying reason.

Pittsburgh Penguins

There is no question that the Penguins posses offensive firepower in the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, the list goes on, but the team only managed to register a meager 2.65 Goals/Per Game (19th in NHL) last season. Is this a cause for concern? Well rumors have linked the Pens to trade talks involving notorious scoring wingers Phil Kessel, Patrick Sharp, Jeff Skinner and T.J. Oshie over the past week, but possibly GM Jim Rutherford could be trending in a different direction, one that that looks at adding depth at the forward positions. Here is what Rutherford had to say via Jason MacKey of the Pittsburgh Tribune review,

"“Getting that depth 1-13 (forwards), where the third and fourth lines are contributing and hard to play against, that maybe is the way it ends up,” Rutherford said. “If a top-six forward is out there that makes sense, then, yeah, that could happen. If it’s not, then we can do it another way.”"

Barring a trade, while the NHL free agency pool is pretty weak this year in many respects, the Pens could find a gem in Matt BeleskeyJustin Williams or Joel Ward.

Barring a trade, while the NHL free agency pool is pretty weak this year in many respects, the Pens could find a gem in Matt Beleskey, Justin Williams or Joel Ward. Beleskey had a breakout season coupled with a good playoff showing, but is commanding something in the ballpark of $5 million/year. This shouldn’t be a problem for the Pens since they were interested in more “veteran” scorers, but the team will have to realize they are not getting a Kessel or Sharp with Beleskey. I see Williams or Ward fitting better into the Penguins roster. Either would fit nicely on a 2nd- or 3rd-line paring, and both bring playoff experience to the table. Rutherford won a cup with Williams as GM with the Carolina Hurricanes, so there is a prior relationship there. Additionally, Pens need to win now as their core star players are getting older, and with this Williams may sign at a lower amount if he believes the Pens are a perennial Cup contender in the short term.

San Jose Sharks

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The Sharks have their front ice skaters aligned for the most part, but now it is time to get the backend, that being their defense. The Sharks allowed a poor 2.76 Goals Against (7th worst in NHL) last season, and despite resigning youngster Brenden Dillion in hopes he can grow over his 5-year extension, the Sharks need depth at the position if they want to stay relevant in the evolving Western Conference. According to

Pierre LeBrun of ESPN

, the Sharks nearly had a trade in place that would have brought Kevin Bieska to the club from the Canucks, but the asking price was too high. So the interest is there, but if I trade does not come about there are a few names that the Sharks should pursue, but it won’t be cheap.

Mike Green


Paul Martin


Cody Franson

are the names that come to my mind. The first two have substantial playoff experience, favorable plus/minus numbers, and could make life easier for freshly acquired goaltender

Martin Jones

between the pipes. Franson on the other hand is an anomaly, in the sense that one never knows what to expect from the young defenseman. In an article by

Adam Vingan of The Tennessan

, Nashville Predators GM Dave Poile expressed some regret over the trade that brought Franson to the Preds, here what he had to say,

"“Our defense was very good this year, and I think in the playoffs he played better than he did maybe sometimes in the regular season. It wasn’t a perfect fit to be very honest and — bottom line — it wasn’t like we didn’t know that before we made the trade, but we were hoping it would work probably a little bit better.”"

Even with this being said, I do see Franson as a good fit in San Jose. First off, Franson is a right-handed shot, and Poile attributed this to his weak showing as part of Nashville last season since he was paired up with another righty a majority of the time. Well guess what? The Sharks current roster only employs two right hand shots, those being Justin Braun and Brent Burns. Could a productive pairing with Marc-Edouard Vlasic be attainable? It’s a possibility. The only thing is, the three defenseman mentioned will undoubtedly hit for the outfield bleachers when it comes to the money. So the Sharks shouldn’t be afraid to open their wallet and reach for the plastic.