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FlightZone: Bay Area Blood in the Water

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Hunters during 2015's offseason, the San Jose Sharks now find themselves lined up as potential prey to someone else's Stanley Cup aspirations. But will there be enough interest, much less cap space, to cause a feeding frenzy?

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another rumour of Patrick Marleau leaving the San Jose Sharks. But after so many false alarms, there eventually has to be fire where there's smoke, and some early indications are that this time, things may be different.

First though, the story. After having his name put out there on Hockey Night in Canada by Elliotte Friedman, trade speculation surrounding Marleau really gained traction when The Godfather himself, Bob McKenzie weighed in:

Indeed, as quoted in McKenzie's TSN article, "Some NHL executives expressed surprise last night the story had not come to light sooner". And those nebulous "right circumstances", according to Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area? The Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. With reports from credible names such as Friedman and McKenzie, coupled with Marleau's own middling response to the matter, there is likely at least a kernel of truth to all this.

Looking at any potential trade partners for Patrick Marleau, we have to consider the team's 2015-16 season aspirations, current roster situation and cap space.

Anaheim entered the season as presumptive Stanley Cup contenders, and after a mildly horrific opening stretch, they seem to have at least stopped the bleeding. So abysmal was their start that they still own the lowest Goals For per game in the league, despite having scored 18 goals in their last 6 outings, and 17 in 5 if you take out their 1-0 victory over, of all teams, the San Jose Sharks. Anaheim is also one of the few teams which could absorb Marleau's $6.66 million cap hit without too much financial finagling, and with a left side featuring Patrick Maroon, Carl Hagelin and Andrew Cogliano, the Sharks forward would very likely constitute an upgrade.

But Anaheim should have concerns about Patrick Marleau's contract, ones centred not on this season but the next. With Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Frederik Andersen all pending RFAs, the Ducks are going to need wiggle room to sign them. Patrick Marleau is only in the second of a three year deal, and while the extra year might normally be of value, that's likely not the case here. This is why I've been of the mindset that Ladd, Byfuglien or both might be ideal additions should Anaheim GM Bob Murray go in that direction; for the Ducks, their expiring contracts may be more of an asset than a detriment.

Turning to Los Angeles, they too are the proud owners of genuine Stanley Cup aspirations, especially after going out and grabbing Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins. They're currently second in the Pacific with a game in hand over first place Vancouver, are yet again a fancy stat juggernaut, and feature one of the best lines in hockey right now in Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and the aforementioned Lucic. It's also true that wingers such as Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown have struggled this season, though Brown appears to be heating up and Tanner Pearson looks like part of the answer as well.

LA's biggest hurdle to a Patrick Marleau addition is, unsurprisingly, cap space. The only reason they were able to add Lucic is that Boston retained $2.75 million of his cap hit, and let's not get started on both the Slava Voynov and Mike Richards incidents.

In addition, Anze Kopitar remains a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Should Kopitar stay with the Kings, as he is likely to do, he'll be in line for a substantial raise over his current $6.8 million AAV. Even if San Jose were to outdo Boston and retain 50% of the contract, a $3.33 million dollar Marleau still impacts LA's ability to re-sign Kopitar while remaining cap compliant. Unless one of those well paid, underachieving Kings wingers were heading the other way, it's difficult to see a fit here.

There's also an obvious fact which bears mentioning: that Anaheim and Los Angeles are both not only divisional opponents, but intrastate rivals. The optics alone may cause greater hesitancy and perhaps a higher price, things which in turn could kill any potential deal.

Finally, we come to the lone Eastern Conference team mentioned. The New York Rangers are another team with Stanley Cup aspirations (I'm sensing a pattern here), one which has been to the Conference Finals three times in four years and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals once during that span. But again, we're faced with a far from perfect fit.

Simply from a roster perspective, the Rangers already have a one-two punch of Rick Nash and Chris Kreider down the left. And before you mention Marleau's previous life as a centreman, while neither Derick Brassard nor Derek Stepan are likely to spring to mind during a discussion of #1 pivots, together they provide a more than sufficient top-six duo.

Here come cap considerations to deliver the knockout blow. The New York Rangers are already rather tight against the ceiling, a state of affairs unlikely to change in the near future. While Dan Boyle is a UFA after this season, Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and the aforementioned Kreider are all RFAs, which is to say there goes that Boyle money. Keith Yandle also looks to be a pending cap casualty over in Manhattan, despite having paid a hefty price for him last season. Similar to the situation with Los Angeles, unless Sharks GM Doug Wilson is planning a Rick NashJoe Thornton reunion, the landscape just doesn't seem right for a deal.

So where else might be a fit for Patrick Marleau? You'll just have to read the next FlightZone to find out.

And now the links.

  • The unlikely comeback of Mike Danton continues. He was recently named to Poland’s national team, and has already played three games for "The Eagles". Here we have a player who served his time and is now a father, one still working on his psychology degree from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Honestly, this seems like it should be celebrated as one of the better redemption stories in hockey right now, even with the occasional brawl to his name. (The Hockey News)
  • The Calgary Flames have acquired sudden journeyman goaltender Kevin Poulin from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for future considerations, who I hear is good in the locker room. Nothing much to see here folks. Jon Gillies with the AHL's Stockton Heat recently went down with injury and is out indefinitely; this move is a direct response. (Sportsnet)
  • Since being recalled from Bakersfield, Leon Draisaitl has made a very good account of himself. He now has 10 points in 6 games, including 3 points yesterday while playing RW on a line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. As TSN's Scott Cullen points out, his production will regress, but it'll just be another feather in their forward corps' cap if the Köln native can succeed offensively in the NHL. Also, between Talbot's shaky play and the surprising Anders Nilsson, there may be a goalie controversy brewing in Edmonton. (Edmonton Journal)
  • We have a Mike Richards sighting to report!
  • In case you missed it, the Philadelphia Flyers called another team meeting after their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday. GM Ron Hextall has seemingly been able to placate owner Ed Snider since being named to the position in May of 2014, but one wonders how long it will be until action is demanded. Here's looking forward to their game tonight against Washington! (Courier-Post)
  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had a rather clear response to concerns that the Carolina Hurricanes might move after Peter Karmanos Jr. sells his majority stake: "Everything Peter is doing is being done to ensure the long-term future of hockey in the Triangle. That’s where the league believes it should be and where it will be." If this team moves, I am going to blame Cam Ward. (The News & Observer)
  • The Nashville Predators have inked 19-year-old defenceman Alexandre Carrier to an entry-level contract, after having selected him 115th overall in the 2015 draft. Because what the Nashville Predators need is more capable defencemen. Carrier's 15 points in 17 games lead the Gatineau Olympiques' d-corps, and his name will be in the Canada U20 conversation come time for the World Juniors. (Predators.NHL)
  • And finally, our friend Ryan Noble of A Very Barrie Colts Blog has a special treat for all you Winnipeg fans, with a look at Jets prospect Brendan Lemieux in relation to his father and Detroit fan favourite, Claude. Have I ever mentioned that Darren McCarty is my hero? (A Very Barrie Colts Blog)

Thanks for reading!