Good, bad, ugly of Grier's first trade deadline with Sharks


For the Sharks, the 2023 NHL trade deadline was a no-win situation.

How do you feel good as an organization after trading a homegrown star, still in his prime, like Timo Meier?

But regardless, there are some positives that Sharks fans can take away from this deadline.


Let’s talk about the good, the bad and the ugly from the Sharks' deadline.

The Good

“We don't want to just keep spinning our wheels here, we're going to try and move this thing forward.”

That’s what first-year general manager Mike Grier said after trading Meier to the New Jersey Devils, and tough as it is to lose the star winger, it’s the right thing for the organization to stop making long, cap-crippling commitments to a core of players that aren't leading the franchise anywhere.

It made some sense when Grier’s predecessor, Doug Wilson, inked Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Martin Jones, Evander Kane, Logan Couture, and Erik Karlsson to long, expensive contracts – those Sharks squads were still contenders, and that was the price to keep top talent. But paying for short-term gain in exchange for long-term pain – I like to say this about eight-year contracts, pay for the first four years, pray for the last four years – doesn’t make sense when your team isn’t any good, like the Sharks haven’t been since their 2019 Western Conference Finals defeat.

Instead, the Sharks have reshaped their defense corps of the future, adding Grade-B and C prospects Shakir Mukhamadullin, Henry Thrun, and Nikita Okhotiuk. Winger Fabian Zetterlund, 23, should be middle-six glue guy in the years to come. They also scored a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 first or second-round pick, albeit probably late picks. And they also took a flyer on young reclamation projects like Martin Kaut and Jacob Peterson.

You might not like some of the prospects that Grier grabbed from other systems – but this is the right direction for the organization.

For what it’s worth, I liked all of Grier’s moves, all minor, on trade deadline day. Converting pending UFA and waiver claim Mikey Eyssimont into veteran Vladislav Namestnikov, which netted a fourth-rounder? That’s good asset management.

Getting whatever you could for Nick Bonino, but also sending him somewhere that he likes? Whenever the Sharks are good again, players will want to play for an organization that treats its people right.

Grabbing Peterson for Scott Reedy? That’s a classic change of scenery trade, as both 2017 Draft prospects have struggled some this season after promising 2021-22 campaigns.

The Bad

But did the Sharks go far enough at trade deadline?

They’ve still got Karlsson, Couture, Vlasic and Tomas Hertl on the books, and focusing on older, almost NHL-ready prospects, suggests that Grier isn’t really blowing anything up.

And he’s not. He said as much after trading Meier.

“There were some scenarios out there where I could have just gotten all picks back,” Grier said after trading Meier. “But we think that the players we got back are moving far along enough on the development path that they'll be able to help us soon.”

Another way that Grier put it, “I still don't think it's a full-on rebuild.”

And indeed, a scorched earth rebuild is tough to execute – you only have so many salary retainment slots, and it’s hard to find homes for all your bloated contracts – but time will tell if Grier and his front office plucked the right prospects from other systems, or if he should’ve grabbed more picks instead.

It's notable too that Grier kept attractive assets like Alexander Barabanov, Nico Sturm, Matt Benning, and Steven Lorentz.

Especially the last three players, I believe that Grier sees as identity players, culture-setters for the type of high-compete hockey that he wants from his team, so it would’ve taken an overpay to land any of them.

Like for Eyssimont, a fourth-rounder for a recent waiver claim is probably an overpay.

In short, it wasn’t a fire sale in San Jose.

As for Karlsson, we’ll see if a larger market develops for him in the offseason. 

There’s an argument that Grier should’ve struck while the iron was hot with Karlsson – no matter the amount that the Sharks had to retain – and you wonder if the reports that San Jose was willing to retain about 20 percent of Karlsson’s remaining contract, as opposed to 40 percent, speaks to Grier’s desire “to flip this thing as quickly as I can, but also making sure we get the right people in and make the right moves here to not rush it.”

It’s certainly harder for the Sharks to win games over the remainder of Karlsson’s contract if they put themselves in a $4.6 million to $5.75 million dead money hole -- 40 to 50 percent retainment -- to start every season.

Of course, the advocates of a full-on rebuild will say, what does it matter if you’re in a huge dead money hole every season through 2026-27? You’re going to be bad pretty much every year until then.

We’ll see if Grier can prove them wrong by icing a better product than expected sooner than later.

The Ugly

Any time you trade a player like Meier, a homegrown star in his prime, that tells you a lot about where your organization is in its competitive cycle.

SAP Center regularly is half-full, in terms of actual butts in the seats, and the outstanding individual efforts by Meier and Karlsson this season haven’t helped much in terms of attendance and the standings. Extending Meier probably wasn’t going to help in either area really too.

Meanwhile, in the farm system, there’s only one Grade-A prospect in William Eklund, and before the additions of Mukhamadullin, Thrun, and Okhotiuk, the defense corps of the future was looking very thin as a whole.

It also hurts to not get a Grade-A asset back for an elite winger like Meier, but as I’ve said before, I don’t think that Grade-A was on the table for the Sharks because of the massive extension that Meier is due for soon. The market spoke.

And even after the deadline, there’s still no sense of what the Sharks’ future in net will look like.

So choosing to trade an individual star like Meier, to address organizational depth in every position, to build, hopefully, a deeper squad that can grow together and win together? It’s the right first step for the rebuild or whatever the Sharks want to call it.

But the first step to getting better is acknowledging the problem -- that means opening your eyes, like I believe Grier has done, and seeing the ugliness around him.

RELATED: How Karlsson perceives Meier trade impacts his Sharks future

So after taking that first step, and going through his first trade deadline?

“We feel good about it,” Grier said today. “We’ve added a lot of assets, prospects and picks-wise, to the organization.”

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