The San Jose Sharks smell blood in the water in the Western Conference, and GM Doug Wilson is doing everything he can to ensure his team will have every opportunity to strike.
Already boasting one of the deepest and most effective attacks in the entire NHL, let alone the conference, the Sharks have gone out and further strengthened their offense with the addition of Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings for a pair of draft picks, and his acquisition comes during the height of his big-league production. While Nyquist has been a consistent scoring threat for the past several seasons, a three-time 20-goal scorer who has managed at least 40 points in each of his past five full campaigns, this season has marked an offensive surge for the 29-year-old. Playing on Detroit’s top line, Nyquist’s 16 goals and 49 points in 62 games put him six points shy of a new career best, and heading to an offensive unit that has been as explosive as San Jose’s, the safe bet would be that Nyquist is on his way to a new personal best.
However, what might be most impressive about the Nyquist acquisition for the Sharks isn’t that they’re acquiring a top-six talent on a 20-goal, 60-point pace and adding him to an attack that has scored at a 3.62 goals per game rate this season. No, it’s that they’re adding that level of talent at the deadline and that Nyquist is likely to slot onto not the first, not the second, but the third line. Thus far, the corps of top-six wingers in San Jose has included captain Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, Joonas Donskoi and breakout performer Timo Meier.
And while it’s unlikely, particularly out of the gate, that Nyquist usurps one of those four for top-six minutes, he definitely represents an upgrade for the third line, which currently sees Joe Thornton man the middle of the ice between Kevin Labanc and Lukas Radil. With Nyquist’s versatility, it would seem that the most obvious fit is slotting him into Radil’s current spot on the third line, which would give the Sharks a third unit that has scored a combined 40 goals and 126 points this season. If he doesn’t fit on the third line, though, Nyquist’s ability to play and produce on both wings means he could slide up and down the lineup to fit the Sharks’ needs.
All that said, and given how integral Nyquist could be to San Jose’s success, Detroit faithful stand to be disappointed with the return. There’s one important factor to consider, though: Nyquist had a full no-trade clause, which limited the Red Wings’ ability to simply sell of an expiring asset to the highest bidder. He controlled his fate somewhat, and provided that was the case, the pair of picks truly isn’t an out-and-out poor return.
By moving Nyquist, and retaining 30 percent of his salary to get the deal done, Detroit nets a 2019 second-round draft pick and a conditional third-round selection in the 2020 draft. Of note, though, is the condition on the third rounder. If the Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup final, or should Nyquist re-sign in San Jose, the draft choice upgrades to a second second-round pick. And two second-round picks is a decent haul for a career 20-goal, 45-point player who had complete control of his destination.