San Jose Sharks: Pursuing a Goaltender at the Trade Deadline?

To outline exactly why I believe the San Jose Sharks should consider looking for a goaltender at the trade deadline, you have to delve into Martin Jones‘ record so far this season.

The season started with a sputter, rather than the bang that fans were expecting from the team that acquired Erik Karlsson in the off-season. While questionable coaching decisions from Peter DeBoer certainly haven’t helped San Jose by any stretch of the imagination. It’s arguable that the biggest letdown so far this season has been starting net-minder Martin Jones.

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The Numbers

When Martin Jones shut out the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, San Jose Sharks fans let out a sigh of relief.

To say Jones’ relationship with ‘good goal-tending’ was a little tenuous to begin the season would be putting it generously. In his first 18 games, he put up a .892 Sv%, which is a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from the goalie that took the 2015-16 Sharks team to the Stanley Cup final. Now, Martin Jones has never been more than a ‘decent’ regular season goaltender. He has been able to rise to new levels in the playoffs, showing up when it counts. The start to the 18-19 season; however, was a new level of disappointment.

After what had been a solid first half of December for Jones, putting up a .923 save percentage in six games, it looked like San Jose’s goal-tending woes were finally over. From December 1st to December 16th, Jones had only one sub .900 game, staying steady between the pipes for a 4-2-0 record. 18 starts into the season, and he’d finally found his groove.

Then came the game against the Chicago Blackhawks. For Jones, it was an unmitigated disaster, allowing 3 goals on just 4 shots against and getting chased from the game following just 13:53 on the ice. Aaron Dell prevailed for the win, but the damage, for Jones, was done. He left the game with a save percentage of just .250 and, probably, a hurt sense of pride.

The expectations were low going into the game against Minnesota, but Jones pulled a fast one on us all, putting on a 26 save show to shutout the Wild for a final score of 4-0. ‘There’, we all thought, ‘it’s just one bad game, he’s back now!’. Turns out, we were wrong. Jones echoed his inconsistent and generally poor start to the season by following this victory with a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, allowing 4 even strength goals against.

Jones, according to Hockey-reference‘s goals saved above average model, has allowed 6.81 more goals this season than a league average goaltender. No matter how you spin it, that’s bad.

So, to wrap up this section: if the Sharks want to stay afloat in an unexpectedly strong Pacific division, a patchy, unreliable starting goaltender is not the way forward. Not to mention, staying alive in the playoffs.

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The Options

Something I’ve been kicking around for a little while now is the idea of the San Jose Sharks going all in to ensnare a goaltender at the trade deadline. Top of my list of targets? Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.

Hear me out before you laugh me out of town. Howard is a .922% goalie at the time of writing. Compare that with Jones’ .898, and Howard is an alluring option for a team that just can’t get a save. When you factor in the fact that Howard is playing behind a weak Detroit team, that allure only gets stronger.

With a $5,291,666 cap hit, there would have to be some shuffling to accommodate this under the Sharks’ current cap hell. Detroit will likely be unwilling to take on too many contracts in return, wanting to shed salary and get younger. This rules out sending one, or both, of Brenden Dillon or (primarily) Justin Braun back as part of the return package.

San Jose currently have about $1.5 million available in cap space. If GM Doug Wilson can persuade Ken Holland into taking back some rough contracts like those of Melker Karlsson, Braun, Dillon, or perhaps Barclay Goodrow, then Howard’s expiring contract could squeak in under the cap. Naturally, this might mean giving up a small handful of current prospects, and/or decimating San Jose’s sparse selection of draft picks in the current years.

But, the San Jose Sharks have to be all in this season. If they hope to have any chance at resigning Erik Karlsson in July, a second round playoff exit isn’t acceptable. But, if there’s any GM I have hopes of being able to pull off some mind-boggling move to help the team, it’s Doug Wilson. (which is not something I would have expected to be saying this time last year).

Stats courtesy of Hockey-reference.

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