With Joe Thornton heading to Toronto, the San Jose Sharks are now at a loss when it comes to a third-line center.
Thornton had scored 31 points in 70 games, a pace of 36 points per 82 games. That isn’t substantial production but it is high enough that it may be hard to replace. At this point, many free agents have been picked off and the Sharks don’t have a ton of cap space right now anyways.
The best centers still available may be Derick Brassard, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Dominik Kahun and Carl Soderberg, but none of those players would be a realistic option. Neither Brassard nor Kahun were legitimate centers this year and the Sharks probably don’t have the cap space to make a move on Granlund, Haula or probably even Soderberg.
If San Jose looks to find an internal replacement instead, which may be the more likely scenario, there still aren’t many viable options. Dylan Gambrell played nearly the full season with the Sharks but didn’t really adjust overly well to the NHL. Joel Kellman could be a solid fourth-line center but he doesn’t have much NHL experience and neither do Noah Gregor Maxim Letunov, Antti Suomela or Alex True, while Fredrik Handemark has none at all. Honestly, the Sharks may be better off starting Patrick Marleau at center and using mainly younger players on the wings on the third and fourth lines.
It was clear before the season that San Jose needed to add some depth to their bottom-six and they managed to do that, in trading for Ryan Donato, then signing Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto. However, the Sharks are unlikely to find a decent option to center their third line and as a result, the bottom-six that was coming together as well as we could have expected suffered a huge hit when Thornton left.
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Will the Sharks find a third-line center internally or externally?