The Sharks are in the middle of one of the longest races and one of the top league teams in the league must not win the Stanley Cup. Emile's Rangers was about seven years old, the French Connection Sabers have roughly the same number of kicks in the can, the Predators of the last vintage recently less than half a decade, but the Sharks Well, they've been empty every time since Joe Thornton became their centerpiece during the 2005-06 season.
And after their elimination by the Blues in the final of the conference in six games, the Sharks are back to the table, as evidenced by the new signature Monday of the free agent waiting, Erik Karlsson, for an impressive contract of 88 millions of dollars over eight years. To hell with the long-term consequences, San Jose qualifies for the third trio of the Bay Area with Karlsson, the finalist of Norris Brent Burns and Marc-Eduard Vlasic.
Loaded at the back, quite talented at the front even though it seems that there is not enough room under the cap to go back in the expectation of the center of free agents (and captain) Joe Pavelski, the Sharks would seem to have a problem. It's at the net, where the club has underperformed Martin Jones for most of the season and intermittently in the tournament.
So, while San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson is doing everything in his power to keep the window open a year after his deal against Karlsson, I wonder if he could move to the next logical step and attempt to strengthen its objectives.
In fact, I wonder if Wilson could call the Rangers to inquire from Henrik Lundqvist.
Understand: Rangers do not try to push Lundqvist aside. This is not a message sent from Manhattan to Gothenburg, Sweden, through The Post. Management is not about to ask the face of the franchise to give up its no-move clause. Lundqvist made it clear that he wanted to bring the Blues Shirts back to the playoffs. There is no wobble on these fronts from the wicket or goalkeeper.
But what if a serious Cup contender followed him? What if Wilson was allowed to pitch? Lundqvist's sister lives in the Bay Area. And, of course, his good friend Karlsson would be available to help with the transition. And he would play behind a defense that, for the first time since 2011-12, would help protect him.
The best of scenarios, Kaapo Kakko, is ready and contributes to Broadway, as well as Vitali Kravtsov and Adam Fox. Filip Chytil is making a huge leap forward, as is Lias Andersson, and Libor Hajek is getting a spot on the blue line. Lundqvist, who teams up with Alexandar Georgiev and / or Igor Shesterkin, plays both the season and the first three months of 2018-19. And the Rangers remain at least in March in the playoffs.
But there is a setback. Kakko is not quite ready and is spending some time learning in Hartford, as well as Kravtsov and Fox. Chtyil and Andersson are not making a leap forward. Hajek needs more work in the AHL. (I wonder why it's so important that the Rangers hire the right coach for the Wolf Pack.) The Rangers are buried in January and there's less and less reason to give Lundqvist games instead of putting them back almost entirely to both children.
The limited-maturity trades of important goalkeepers do not work. There is not enough time to adjust. It's hard enough for a star striker to make the transition after spending all his life with one team. It would be essentially impossible for a goalkeeper; almost impossible for Lundqvist, 37.
As such, if the Sharks want to race at Lundqvist, the time has come. San Jose has already traded its first players in 2019 (Evander Kane) and in 2020 (Karlsson). Wilson should therefore be reluctant to sacrifice his first in 2021. But with the Rangers retaining half the salary and ceiling capped ($ 4.25 million per year), we could perhaps persuade San Jose to separate from Ryan Merkley, the Peterborough right-handed defenseman, picked by Wilson in 21st place last June.
Ideally, the Sharks would ask Jones to support Lundqvist, who would likely get about 50 starts, and pilot the current backup, Aaron Dell. But Wilson could explore the possibility of moving Jones and his $ 5.75 million scenario capped until 2023-24 to free up space.
Again, this is a hypothetical exercise. The Rangers do not push that. Until now, the Sharks either. Even if Wilson is aware, Lundqvist could very well decline.
Yet, I wonder.