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TRANSCRIPT: Grier on Sharks’ Timeline, Trade Deadline Strategy, Quinn’s Performance

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

Yesterday, San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier held his mid-season availability.

We didn’t get to every question, but here’s what we talked about for 20-or-so minutes.

Grier touched on a wide range of topics, from the Sharks’ rebuild/timeline, Trade Deadline strategy, what he thinks of head coach David Quinn, Will Smith coming out of college, Filip Bystedt coming over from Sweden, John McCarthy and the San Jose Barracuda’s performance, keeping Kaapo Kahkonen, and more.

This is the full transcript, if you’re interested in my takeaways from Grier’s availability, I discussed that here:

Takeaways From Grier’s State of the Sharks Availability (+)

Mike Grier, on what he’s seen from the San Jose Sharks this season:

I think the group needs to get credit—especially the leadership group, they rallied together. I think the main thing is that it’s a privilege to be in the NHL every day, and it’s a prideful group. No one likes to go through streaks like that and lose games the way they did, especially early. They’ve been able to stay positive and upbeat through the whole thing, which isn’t easy. They deserve a lot of credit. The main thing is that the core group of guys in there are prideful—prideful people, prideful players, and competitive. It’s been really easy for those guys to get down and pack it in and call it a season, but each time they’ve responded. Again, credit to them.

Grier, on the Trade Deadline strategy for his many pending UFAs:

It’s always kind of an ongoing evaluation, but I think we got a pretty good idea of what we want to do and how we want to attack the next six weeks. I don’t want to tip my hand too much out of not only respect for the players, but other teams out there when it comes down to trying to make a deal and things like that, but I think we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do over these next six weeks.

Grier, on importance of adding draft capital or prospects:

Very important. That’s kind of the stage we’re at—we’re still trying to collect assets. Like you said, whether it’s draft picks, or young players, or prospects, we got to keep getting some ammo and take some swings at some things. It’s all part of it. Where we are, we don’t necessarily—if we can avoid it—let players walk for nothing. Hopefully we can get something back that will help us down the road. We’ll definitely look to try and do that.

Grier, on trade conversations that are taking place:

Conversations are starting to—we have our pro meetings coming up this weekend. Teams are either in their pro meetings now or they just finished them, so it’s a lot of kicking the tires right now, but once teams kind of get through those, we’ll have an idea of who they want to target. Things will probably pick up here after the break and as we get going.

It’ll be interesting with the wild card, there’s still a bunch of teams that are alive. Some of those teams will probably wait closer to the deadline to decide if they want to add or not. It’s a little bit of wait and see in both conferences because there’s so many teams that could possibly get hot, and then end up getting a spot, or they go cold, they’re out of it. I don’t think anyone wants to kind of jump the gun too early if they’re not one of the big boys.

Grier, on if the San Jose Sharks’ poor season is affecting trade offers:

To be honest, I haven’t really got into any type of returns for any of the players yet. It’s just been, like I said, kicking tires for the most part. Guys are having the seasons they’re having, but I also think that a lot of these guys have track records—and other managers are smart enough to know that. The situation is what it is here, we haven’t been a prolific offensive team, by any means. These guys are—a lot of them are proven veterans who can produce offense, score goals, and help teams. Other teams are aware of that and are taking our situation into account.

Grier’s thoughts on pending UFA Kaapo Kahkonen’s solid season:

He’s had a really strong season. Like I kind of said out there, I gotta give the kid a ton of credit. From probably last December, when [Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Speer] asked him to change his foundation, his technique, and things like that, he was willing to do it. As someone—I think he’s 26 years old—to try and do that as an athlete, to change your base of who you are as an athlete is very difficult. You gotta give him credit for doing that, working on it last year. Going to Vancouver, working on it in the summer, then taking that training back home with him to Finland, and then coming over here early to work on it again.

I got nothing but really good things to say about Kaapo. He’s been great in the dressing room—him and Blacky have a great relationship, they pull for each other, they’re happy for each other, they’re there to console each other on the off night. He’s really been good. He’s kind of in the bucket with all the UFAs as well. We’ll see what’s out there, and if something makes sense, we’ll do it. Like I said, I don’t want to really get into too much about who’s staying or who’s going or what’s out there for those guys, but I just say he’s had a good year, and I’m really happy for him.

Grier, on the decision for Kahkonen to change his foundation in the middle of last season:

To be honest with you, I don’t know, I wasn’t here [his first season with the San Jose Sharks]. I think he played pretty well in Minnesota and Iowa, and played pretty well when he got here. Nappy and Spearsy identified things that they thought he could change that would help his game. He’s big and he’s super-athletic, so it was just about changing his stance. I’m not a goalie guy—his stance, his hands, and all that stuff. I honestly don’t have an answer to why it wasn’t addressed earlier. Maybe it’s because like you said, he was having some success, but the shot volume and the chances we were giving up last year, maybe it was a kind of a blessing in disguise to kind of expose some things that maybe he needed to tweak and work on. Like I said, to his credit, he was willing to do it.

Grier, on trying to get more draft capital for the 2024 Draft:

Getting draft picks, whether it’s in this draft or next year draft, you got to kind of balance it all out. You don’t want to have eight or nine guys in one class and they’re all up in the draft world, and all of a sudden, you’re looking at trying to see who gets a contract, who gets signed.

It’s about spreading the draft capital we have. We have to figure out other drafts, but at the same time, if another team—we’re kind of in this cap era where a lot of the top teams have spent a lot of their draft capital. Maybe it’s time to look at maybe some young players that we think that can come in here and help us and play right away.

At the end of the day, everyone loves to draft, we all get excited about the players we’re taking, but it’s still when you’re picking these, you get a third-round pick, you don’t know what they’re gonna become. If you can get a player that’s a little bit further down the line when you have a little better read on? Not dissimilar to Henry, right? We gave up a third-round pick for him, but I think you would ask anyone, if you could get a Henry Thrun in the third round, you’d be over the moon. Things like that, we’ll take into account, and it’s always good to add draft picks if you can and get some more ammo and take some more swings and in the lottery. If a team presents us with someone our scouts like and think can help us quicker than a draft pick, then we’ll definitely look at it.

Grier, on keeping Kahkonen:

He’s someone we would entertain keeping. Like I said, I think him and Blacky have a really good relationship. It seems like they got a bond, and they’ve helped each other kind of manage the workload and things like that, so we’re open to it. Keeping an open mind to all things. At the same time, I’m going to do what I think is best for the organization long term.

Grier, on weaponizing his cap space at the Deadline:

We’d look at it. The thing with us is we only have one retention spot, so that kind of limits a little bit. There’s a chance we might have to use it in one of our own deals. We’ll look at all those things if we can—like you said, if it means that we can add another asset, whether it’s taking on a player or a contract or something like that to get us another pick or player. I’m definitely open to all those things.

Grier’s evaluation of David Quinn this year:

They’ve done a good job. It hasn’t been easy circumstances with those guys. When you lose, like I mentioned earlier, lose Timo and you lose Erik, you’re gonna lose offense, you’re gonna lose production, you’re gonna lose some guys that can kind of play in chaos, right? They can take the puck, beat someone one-on-one, and all of a sudden get you a goal out of nothing. Those guys are difference makers that we lost. It’s always gonna be a different looking looking team, so I think they’ve done a pretty good job.

Quinny and the staff are excellent communicators, so the players know where they stand with them. I think he deserves some credit, too, for the guys playing hard throughout this. Like I said, the leadership group deserves some credit too, but I think Quinny and staff deserve gratitude for keeping a positive vibe around the room—not letting guys hang their heads and feel sorry about themselves. He’s done a pretty good job.

Grier, on breaking down the rebuild into phases instead of a timeline:

We’re obviously in the first phase now, where we’ve moved on from All-Star caliber players for draft picks and younger players, and that’ll kind of continue this summer. There’ll be some other guys that will come off the books and make room for some younger players who step up and grab a role for us to fill those spots within free agency, through trades with players that we think are probably better fits of what we’re trying to do here. We’re just in the beginning, and then hopefully next year there’s progress.

We start to see more of what we want it to look like, some of it is luck [too].

If we go into next year, we add some pieces and we have Logan and Tomas and Granny and Sturmy down the middle, we’ll feel pretty good about ourselves taking a step forward from where we are this year. It’s tough to kind of give you a number of a timeline, but this has kind of been a little bit of the—I don’t know if teardown is the right word, but this is the phase where we’re moving on and making the big changes that we’ve felt were necessary to push this thing forward. Hopefully, as we do that, next year can be a step forward with the guys we have here, but then adding some influx of youth to it as well.

Grier, on Filip Bystedt coming over next year:

There’s some kind of tricky rules with the Swedish Federation over there. I don’t know if he’ll get over here when the season’s done.

With the World Championships and all that, if he’s in consideration for that, it makes it kind of difficult to happen.

We’re excited to have him over here next year. I think he was happy to keep developing back home in Sweden, but I think it’s time for him to come over to North America. I think he enjoys playing on the smaller rink—he’s kind of one of the rare Europeans who’s looking forward to being on the smaller rinks. We’re excited to have him over here.

Grier, on Will Smith turning pro as soon as possible:

That’s a conversation I’ll have with Will and his agent, Joe and Tom and Todd will sit down in a room and try and figure out what’s best for him in where he’s at in his development. He’s had a good freshman season, he’s got a big second half for him. I know he’s excited about, as a Boston kid, he’s dreamed about playing in the Beanpot, he’s got that in a couple of weeks. Then the NCAA tournament. I know he’s got plans to try and win it all–and probably won’t because it’s BU—but after that, we’ll talk and see how he’s feeling about his game and how he feels about himself physically and all that.

Grier, on the San Jose Barracuda’s performance this season:

I think we’re all probably a little bit disappointed with Barracuda, but at the same time, I think Todd, he mentioned it out there, is that we’ve taken the first-line center from them with [Ryan Carpenter]. Carpy up here is a really good fourth-liner, defensive player. In the American League, he’s counted on to be an offensive player. Justin Bailey was probably their top forward, so we’ve taken two key offensive cogs from their team, which has hurt. Bords was up with us for the first month of the season. He’s gone back down, and he’s been injured. I think a lot of that has been the line-up—and same with Henry. Henry was really good for them, kind of rounded out their D-pairs down there. Now he’s gone.

That’s kind of the main thing—we took away some of their depth down there, and then not too dissimilar from up here, we’re playing young D down there, which is kind of the balance that Todd talked about of development and winning down there. We got Pulli, Guryev, Ethan Frisch, Muk. Even Gawanke, I think he’s only [24]. We’re playing a real young D core. In that league, teams that are successful seem to be a little bit more veteran. We have some good vets up front, on the back end, we’re probably a little bit young. All that stuff has contributed to it.

In net, we’re playing three young guys as well. [Makiniemi] coming off his injury, sort of trying to find his footing. It’s been kind of a bit of a storm of everything that’s kind of gone against them a little bit, I guess you could say.

Johnny Mac’s done a good job of staying positive and working with the guys down there. There’s a lot of factors that have contributed of not having the start of the season that they would have liked. Hopefully they can get things turned around. Tristen Robins is back and healthy, missed basically the whole first half of the season. Things like that. It’s just been a lot—it’s been kind of weird down there. I think we’re all a little bit disappointed, but we’re hoping for better [this season].

Grier, on John McCarthy’s performance as Barracuda head coach:

Right now, I think we’re happy with the job Johnny and his staff are doing, they’re working hard. Johnny, he’s been in the organization a long time. He’s wearing it—it means so much to him. He puts in a ton of work along with his staff. It’s been a little bit strange, all the circumstances that’s kind of gone against him. Hopefully, the win last night will be a stepping stone to a better second half, and we can try and make a run and sneak into the playoffs and have that experience.

Grier, on at least being in the playoff conversation in 2-3 years:

Ideally, that would be the goal. I don’t think any of us want to be buried at the bottom of the standings year after year. In two or three years, hopefully we can be a team that is pushing for the playoffs, if not hopefully grabbing a spot. You see it every year, there’s teams that can sneak up and surprise you. That’s Philly this year, everyone kind of thought they weren’t going to have a good year, but they’ve put it together, and are making a run out at it.

With our development staff, the job they do, and the belief in the scouting staff that we’ll keep drafting well—[hopefully we’re] fortunate enough to get a little luck with things. I don’t see any reason why not in those two or three years, we’re pushing for a playoff spot and starting to really take an upper turn.

Grier, on those 2-3 years coinciding with all the cap space they’re going to have in the summer of 2025:

Hopefully, if it all works out, we’ll have some money this year. Like I said, in a couple years, we’ll have even more money, and hopefully, we’ll have some good, young players who will be 20, 21, 22 years old. Hopefully, they’ll be ready to make an impact, and we’ll be able to insulate them with some good players.

We still always have to be smart with how we’re spending money. We’re nowhere near the point where we want to be—even three years from now, we don’t want to be handing out contracts to guys in their 30’s for long term and soon regretting it. We’ll be smart, it’ll be nice to have that cap space and have the luxury to maybe get involved in some trades or things like that or guys that come available.

Special thanks to Maddie Dutra for her help transcribing.

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