Mike Grier and Torrey Mitchell formed one of the best penalty killing partnerships in the NHL.
The San Jose Sharks received some troubling news over the weekend. Or did they?
Torrey Mitchell, last year's top rookie on the squad, shows all the signs of being a star in this league. He has speed, toughness, and a blue-collar work ethic that have combined to make him the team's top penalty killer.
But on the second day of camp, he has broken his leg. Team doctors say he will be out eight weeks.
But while he will be missed, this has the following positive effects:
- Eight weeks from Sunday is November 16, the 19th game of the season for the Sharks. Thus, he will not miss even a quarter of the season, and likely be less beat up by the playoffs.
- This almost assures that the Sharks will keep fan favourite Jeff Friesen, although early reports are he is back on his game, in which case the team got a solid player at a great discount.
- The team gets a better look at several prospects who might fill in, or at least be the 13th forward. Top candidates include Tom Cavanagh (who made an appearance late last season), Lukas Kaspar (three career games), highly touted Jamie McGinn, last year's first round pick Logan Couture, and Steven Zalewski. They will split Mitchell's playing time in the preseason and one or more of them will get time in the regular season to see how they've progressed. Maybe one of them will be this year's Mitchell or Marc-Eduoard Vlasic.
- This team has a habit of starting out slowly, and this roster seemed pretty well set through the top 13. The injury will mean there will be more intensity in the preseason and early season because of the competition.
On a sidenote, the San Jose Mercury News reported that minor injuries kept new defenceman Brad Lukowich (upper body soreness...c'mon, it's not the playoffs yet, can someone make the team's disclose injuries like every other sport?) and Jeremy Roenick (knee) are missing time so far. However, it was an "organizational decision" not to have Kyle McLaren practice.
Reports are that McLaren is on the trading block, and this seems to show they are serious about it. I doubt anyone is willing to give someone up and take on a $2.5 million contract for a guy who has struggled with injuries the last two years and is no longer one of the most feared hitters on this team, especially when he never was an offensive threat.
Assuming they cannot trade him, the Sharks have two options: they can buy him out, but they would still be on the hook for almost $1.7 million against the cap no matter how much the buyout actually costs. That would get them under by about $600,000--not enough room to sign another defenceman, leaving them with only seven blueliners who can even arguably play at the NHL level.
Therefore, the more likely course of action is putting him on waivers. If someone picks him up, the team is off the hook and has $2,275,000 left to sign more backup defencemen; for that they can get two solid back-ups.
If no one claims him, the team can reassign him to the minors; they would still have to pay him his full salary, but he would be available to be called up in the event someone else becomes injured. Players in the minors and on injured reserve do not count against the team's cap, only dressed and scratched players do.