Three thoughts: Winnipeg could be the right trade partner for the Sharks

PHILADELPHIA The biggest obstacle to pulling off a major trade in the NHLs salary cap era is finding the right dance partner.

With tight-budget constrictions and tremendous parity, its becoming increasingly rare to find two teams whose needs line up and fit perfectly like a pair of puzzle pieces.

But as the Sharks struggle to generate offense in Patrick Marleaus absence, ranking 28th in goals per game (2.61), a potential trade partner could be emerging in the Winnipeg Jets.

Heres the Sharks problem: they desperately need another scoring forward to bolster their top six, but they cant afford to pay the price (six pieces) that the Ottawa Senators gave up earlier this month to acquire Matt Duchene.

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The Jets, however, are loaded with young speed, skill and talent up front, so they could potentially give up a forward without creating a new hole in their lineup. At the same time, they might need what the Sharks have blue line depth now that veteran defenseman Tobias Enstrom is expected to be sidelined for at least another seven weeks with a lower-body injury.

Enstrom, 33, is also in the final year of his five-year contract, so a trade with the Sharks could benefit the Jets backend needs beyond this season. Likewise, a trade for a young Jets forward would fit general manager Doug Wilsons requirement of being a deal that works, for now and into the future.

At this point, it would be foolish to speculate about who the Jets might be willing to part ways with, but a package with the Sharks would likely include a young defenseman, such as Tim Heed or Joakim Ryan, and one or more forward prospects, such as Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc or Danny ORegan, to help offset the imbalance.

We can leave the details up to Wilson and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

The major obstacle here is that the Jets (15-6-3) are 3-2 since Enstrom suffered his injury on Nov. 18. Cheveldayoff is notoriously conservative when it comes to shaking up his roster, so the Jets would need to start dropping some games for him to be desperate enough to go shopping on the trade market.

2. Im not buying into the speculation that Dylan DeMelo is drawing into the lineup because the Sharks are showcasing him for a trade.

DeBoer is notorious for keeping his rookies on short leashes, which explains Heeds absence from the lineup twice last week and Ryans healthy scratch Saturday.

Over the last couple of years, the Sharks have watched youngsters, such as Labanc, Meier and Marcus Sorensen, make immediate splashes only to slow down when the relentless grind of NHL hockey catches up with them.

A little break in the action can help both defensemen maintain the edge theyll need to play with throughout the dog days of winter.

Second, a DeMelo trade just isnt going to yield the kind of return the Sharks are looking for on the trade market.

DeMelo is a sound, stable third pairing defenseman, but teams arent going to pay a high price for his services when hes been pushed out for Roman Polak, David Schlemko, Heed and Ryan over the past three seasons.

At the end of the day, general managers will be asking about Heed and Ryan at the negotiating table, and if the Sharks can swing a deal, they know that DeMelo can fill out their third pairing without any hiccups.

3. Chris Tierney is the Sharks unsung hero at the seasons quarter pole.

Tierney entered the season stuck in no mans land, caught behind Tomas Hertl on the Sharks depth chart while facing pressure from below with guys, such ORegan and Ryan Carpenter, vying for his fourth line center job.

The Sharks didnt exactly give Tierney a ringing endorsement either when they re-signed him to a one-year, $735,000 contract in restricted free agency over the summer.

But Tierney is one of the linchpins holding the Sharks forward group together right now.

Through 23 games, he ranks third on the team in goals (6), sixth among the forwards in points (nine) and hes recorded a 52.99 possession rating.

His play as the Sharks third line center has allowed Hertl to slide up to the left wing position on Logan Coutures line, giving the teams top-six forward group some much needed scoring punch.

Likewise, his consistency at center is giving the Sharks some reliability down the middle as the revolving door continues to turn on the fourth line between Carpenter, ORegan and Barclay Goodrow.

With that being said, Tierney still needs to prove that he can create the nightly third line mismatches that the Sharks will need to be contenders in the Western Conference.