Let's assume for a moment that the San Jose Sharks are willing to deal one of their organization's all-time greatest players to a divisional rival. Let's assume further that the Kings, stocked full of talent in the top six, want to make a deal for him. Unlikely, of course, but hockey news has afforded us a rather rare way to disgust our most hated rivals.
So here we are, the Kings and the Sharks are going to make a deal. Patrick Marleau is all set to be a King if they so please. What do the Kings need to do to make this happen?
They currently have about $1.4m in cap space. Patrick Marleau carries a $6.66m cap hit until his contract expires after next season.
For starters, the Kings can't really afford the price that would come with getting San Jose to pay some of Marleau's salary. Their prospects aren't good enough and they have dealt all of their worthwhile draft picks for the next century. That's pretty much out the window.
The Kings also have seven players currently capable of playing in the top six. Something would have to give here. Dean Lombardi would basically have to admit a mistake by trading one of his long-term, high-dollar contracts. This means Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, or Dustin Brown. Anze Kopitar isn't going anywhere, of course, and Milan Lucic isn't valuable enough to make the deal work.
The Sharks need a defenseman, so the fit is already wonky. Unless the Kings were willing to part with Drew Doughty (no) or Jake Muzzin (they better not) then there isn't a one-for-one fit here. However, the Kings do have a defenseman that they have already soured on. If they're not going to dress Christian Ehrhoff consistently, then getting value for him out of a deal like this would be a good option. If they feel Jamie McBain is as good as Ehrhoff, well, they're wrong, but this isn't a horrible way to go.
So we'll say that Ehrhoff is in. Ehrhoff is a former Shark and a good player. The Sharks wanting him would be reasonable. He's cheap and good. This is sensible. This swap alone leaves the Kings about $4m over the cap. We're off to a good start as far as my dream of making Patrick Marleau beat the Sharks in the playoffs goes.
Given that Jeff Carter has been the best or second best Kings forward this season and has been basically since he arrived in LA, he isn't going anywhere. That leaves just Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown. It seems... unlikely that the Sharks would deal for Brown. His contract is laughably bad, even if we think the dude still has quite a bit of game left. Also, it just seems like Tomas Hertl and Dustin Brown probably shouldn't be near each other.
So, Marian Gaborik. He's had a really rough start to his second full season in Los Angeles. Gabbo has just 2 points in 15 games this season. His flat start has left Darryl Sutter to make a really bad decision by putting him on the third line with Trevor Lewis and Andy Andreoff and Nick Shore and so on. Gaborik's underlying numbers are still pretty acceptable and his ship will probably right at some point in the future, but trading him wouldn't be horrible either. He's still a very good player and his contract is pretty reasonable because the cap hit is so low, but it still lasts a long time. With that said, even the extended contract length doesn't give San Jose much reason to object to having him.
This is, value-wise, a pretty fair deal. The Kings may even come out on the wrong end of things, but they would be an excellent team for at least the rest of this season at the very least. The trade would do nothing to stop the Kings from winning long-term. Ultimately, the Kings get rid of a player they may be souring on in Ehrhoff, and get out from under the length of Gaborik's contract. Marleau's contract ending after next season would also help the Kings throw gobs of money at Tyler Toffoli.
On the other hand, the Sharks get a player that historically produces offense at a better rate than what they're giving up at a low cap hit, albeit for a very long time. They also get a very talented stopgap defender on the cheap.
Is it likely to happen? Well, it's actually hard to say. Given that the trade itself isn't likely to change the fortunes of either team very much, it's possible. It depends on what the teams view as a necessity: long-term stability (Gaborik) or cap flexibility (Marleau). If Marleau truly does want out, as some people have reported, then the Sharks' hands may be tied anyway. It is also possible that Marleau - sensing that the Sharks would be unwilling to deal with Anaheim and Los Angeles - is trying to push himself to New York. Maybe he just thinks that Southern California is the superior California. Who knows.
San Jose's needs aren't exactly clear. They're at a weird position in their organizational arc where it isn't clear if they should push to win this very second or aim for wins a few years down the line. If they opt to go for youth, they almost certainly won't even bother with the Kings.
This story is so much fun, I love it. I wish for nothing but the continued melodrama known as the San Jose Sharks to continue into eternity. Maybe they can name Marleau captain and then trade him.