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Speculation: Ryan Pike on Johnny Gaudreau to San Jose

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Credit: Ethen171717 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Yesterday at San Jose Hockey Now, we broached the idea of the San Jose Sharks trading for Johnny Gaudreau.

The knives are out for Gaudreau in Calgary after back-to-back playoff flame-outs. The 2019 Hart Trophy candidate has “likely played his last game as a Calgary Flame,” according to Eric Francis of Sportsnet. Francis added: “In a flat cap world it’s going to be hard enough to swap out Gaudreau for any meaningful return, let alone a man making $6.75 million.”

On the San Jose side, we know Doug Wilson loves rolling the dice on elite talent at mark-down prices — Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton come to mind.

But even at a discount, do the San Jose Sharks have the goods to tempt Calgary? And would Brad Treliving trade his franchise face within the division?

Ryan Pike of Flames Nation helps answer these questions.

Sheng Peng: How depressed is Johnny Gaudreau’s trade value?

Ryan Pike: I think it depends on the sales pitch. If the idea is your team needs a guy to drive play, Gaudreau might not be that guy. He’s immensely offensively talented, but he’s only average defensively, is super-streaky, and is really reliant on his speed to produce (e.g., he needs to be fast and confident enough to slalom around defenders).

But he’s a season removed from a 99-point year, so it’s not like he’s completely fallen off a cliff. Even in a down year, he was a useful offensive contributor. Just not a world-beater.

SP: Just tossing out some trade ideas with the Sharks: Last summer, hypothetically, if Doug Wilson had offered up a 22-year-old Timo Meier, signed at four more years and $6 million per, straight up for 99-point season Gaudreau, signed at two more years and $6.75 million per, I think he would’ve been laughed out of the room. But now?

RP: I like the Meier fit, to be honest. And Gaudreau would fit in nicely in a group in San Jose where there are some bigger guys that can open up some ice for him. I think the challenge for the Flames is it would need to be a hockey deal, as trading No. 13 for futures could be perceived as throwing in the towel on contention.

SP: Of course, this isn’t the Sharks of old. They’re nowhere as deep up front, and I doubt that they could afford to part with a rising young star like Meier. The value might still be there, both Gaudreau and Meier are special players in different ways, but let’s say Meier is a non-starter.

Now this isn’t a knockout offer, but could this be a start of a package worth considering? Kevin Labanc and Mario Ferraro for Gaudreau.

These aren’t the biggest names, but Labanc is a proven middle-six playmaker who can replace about half of Gaudreau’s offense. The RFA will also come in at about half the cost, around $3 million per.

Meanwhile, the Sharks love, absolutely love Ferraro, but you have to give up something to get something. Ferraro is a cost-controlled young defenseman, coming off a solid rookie campaign and looks like he has a long future as a top-four blueliner.

This is a win-now package that’s young and cost-controlled for the Flames. San Jose also has Tampa Bay’s first-round pick this year and a Ryan Merkley to dangle, if there’s interest, but those assets don’t necessarily help Calgary next year.

RP: Labanc is a good one because he played in Barrie with Rasmus Andersson and Andrew Mangiapane and could be a nice cultural fit for the group. I think it could be a deal sold to the marketplace with the idea that Matt Tkachuk, Mangiapane, Dillon Dube, and Sam Bennett would have bigger roles going forward.

SP: Okay, so San Jose appears to have assets that could entice Calgary. But do you think Treliving would trade Gaudreau within the same division?

RP: Brad is old school, but he made a trade with the Oilers [for Milan Lucic]. THE OILERS. Why? Because it gave him value and it made the team better.

So if the Sharks, for example, had the best trade offer out there, he’d do it. But he’s not going to trade Gaudreau just to trade him, it’d need to be a move he could explain and justify in the “making the team better” lenses.

SP: Finally, I’m a little confounded by the precipitous drop in Gaudreau’s value. Can you explain that? Are there other red flags besides the playoff performances? I have heard that he really enjoys the nightlife.

RP: I think the off-ice stuff is a bit overblown. He had a rep as a partier when he broke in, but I’m sure that happens with every star in their early 20’s. Aside from the Super Bowl suspension from Hartley’s years here, it never really got in the way.

I would say the biggest question mark is how he sort of has topped out. His game hasn’t really changed a ton over the past three to four years, and if I’m a video coach, there are tons of tendencies that can be exploited — compared to Tkachuk, for example, whose game keeps evolving.

Gaudreau is trending towards being a guy that’s fairly one-dimensional and can’t battle in the dirty areas of the ice, so to speak. But he’s great at that one dimension.

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