• Elite Hockey Experience

The Shallow End: April 2020



Fixin' For a Middle Six that Really Clicks

Another week, another trade for the Sharks. (And the Barracuda as well; more on that below.)

After swinging two deals with the Blues back in February, GM Kyle Phillips once again burned up the phone lines between California and Missouri, working to bolster the middle of his team's lineup.

This time around it will be veteran forwards Adam Henrique and Zack Smith winging their way to the West Coast, where they will be reunited with former Blues teammates Michal Kempny and Marcus Johansson.

"Center depth was a priority for us heading down the stretch," said Phillips in a phone interview with the Mercury News.

"We've gotten terrific performances at the top of the lineup, but frankly we've also had guys playing roles and minutes that don't set them up to succeed.

"This trade addresses those issues."

On their way out to St. Louis are forwards Derick Brassard and Dryden Hunt, along with centerman Scott Laughton, continuing the Sharks' recent trend of moving younger players for short-term upgrades. 

"We didn't love losing Scott, who we feel is still on an upward trajectory," Phillips explained. "He's just one of those guys who has a knack for busting through the limitations people want to put on him.

"But at the same time we felt strongly that Adam would be a perfect fit in our top 6 group, while Zack Smith can eat some of the tough defensive minutes that Scotty was handling for us."

The trade also shaved approximately $650,000 off the Sharks' payroll, no small matter for a club that had been less than $1 million under the EHE salary cap prior to the deal.

"I don't expect we'll be busy at the deadline this year," said Phillips. "But it was important to create a little more financial flexibility for call-ups or any smaller opportunities that might present themselves."

Lyon Out Like a Lamb

The organization's other move was purely for the benefit of their AHL team, as the Barracuda shipped starting netminder Alex Lyon to the Grand Rapids Griffins in exchange for top-4 defenseman Robbie Russo. 

Thanks in part to the Sharks making headlines at the NHL level, the deal naturally flew under the radar. But it's one that's plenty intriguing in its own right, considering Lyon was initially acquired in late 2018—at no small expense—with the expectation he'd provide elite goaltending for the Sharks' farm team.

Unfortunately, Lyon simply never seemed to gain the trust of the coaching staff. Indeed, when the Barracuda rolled to the Calder Cup with Antoine Bibeau starting 18 of 19 games (and Lyon getting yanked after surrendering 5 goals in his only start), it appeared to spell the end of the journeyman netminder's time in San Jose.

Nevertheless, the slate was apparently wiped clean at the start of this season, with head coach Mike Vellucci deploying Lyon as his starting goalie through most of the first half.

But a tepid .906 save percentage through 26 games didn't win any plaudits on a team still harboring championship ambitions. And with the club looking to shore up its eroded blueline depth, Lyon was finally deemed expendable, even though it leaves Bibeau—whose performance to date has also been less than stellar—as the team's undisputed starter.

As with most trades, only time will tell if this one was the right call. But one way or another, it will likely go down as the defining move of the Barracuda's 2019-20 campaign.