For good reason, most of the Trade Deadline chatter surrounding the San Jose Sharks has been about star centerman Tomas Hertl. There’s also been some ink splashed about other pending UFAs Alexander Barabanov and Andrew Cogliano.
But here’s an interesting one, courtesy of Pierre LeBrun.
“An under-the-radar name for the Sharks that’s garnering some interest? Defenseman Jake Middleton, who has partnered with both Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns at times this year. He’s part of that penalty killing crew that’s ranked second in the NHL,” LeBrun said on TSN’s Insider Trading. “He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year, he’s making only $725,000, he’s a bit of an old-school physical brand that teams headed to the playoffs like to stash on their roster. Among the teams that have kicked tires I’m told [are] Tampa Bay, Boston, and St. Louis.”
Middleton has three goals, five assists, and 62 penalty minutes in 39 games this season.
Corey Masisak of The Athletic added this, about Middleton’s impending free agency:
Was just about to type this up. One bit of info to add to Curtis' tweet … Jake Middleton needs to play 20 more NHL games this year to remain an RFA, per @CapFriendly. Given his age/service time, if Middleton plays 19 or fewer games the rest of the year, he'll be a Group 6 UFA. https://t.co/rLZq6zrlOS
— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) March 8, 2022
So what’s likely RFA but possible UFA Middleton worth on the open market?
“He’s in demand, all right,” Source #1 told San Jose Hockey Now. “I have mentioned him to our group.”
Another source suggested, “Maybe a third?”
“I would say a fourth,” Source #1 offered. “But he might get higher than that because he has the element of size and toughness that’s needed in the playoffs. I’d be surprised if you got a second.”
Is a third or a fourth-round pick worth it for the San Jose Sharks?
On one hand, considering where Jake Middleton has risen from – the San Jose Barracuda signed the 2014 seventh-round pick in Oct. 2016 after the Kings relinquished his rights, and as recently as this past summer, he might’ve been the No. 9 defenseman on the Sharks’ depth chart – a middle-round pick would be manna from heaven.
On the other hand, if the San Jose Sharks are serious about making it back in the playoffs next year, should they be so quick to pawn off a likely cost-controlled defender that has shown the ability to play up, especially with Karlsson?
It’s an intriguing question for Doug Wilson, Joe Will, and company as they head toward the Mar. 21 Trade Deadline. But what’s for certain: This is a spotlight that’s well deserved for the persistent Jake Middleton, who’s spent most of five previous seasons with the Barracuda.
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