Slumping Sharks deal away players before trade deadline

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — With their playoff position in peril, the San Jose Sharks dealt away some of their pending unrestricted free agents in their latest move toward the future.

The Sharks swapped fourth-liners with Chicago, trading forward Andrew Desjardins to the Blackhawks for forward Ben Smith, dealt forward Tyler Kennedy to the New York Islanders for a draft pick and swapped minor leaguers with Colorado before Monday’s trade deadline.

Those moves followed Sunday’s trade of James Sheppard to the New York Rangers for a fourth-round draft pick in 2016

“For so many years we’ve sat and anxiously awaited what was maybe coming and who was coming in to try to put us over the top and help us,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Obviously, we’re in a different situation now.”

These latest moves continue a process that began in earnest after San Jose blew a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs last spring. General manager Doug Wilson responded to that by saying the team needed to take a step back in order to take two steps forward with younger players.

That step back has put San Jose in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2002-03 season. The Sharks have lost 10 of 13 games heading into Monday’s game against Montreal to fall into 10th place in the Western Conference. San Jose has also lost eight straight home games for the first time since the 1994-95 season.

Despite the recent slump, they are only two points out of a playoff spot at the deadline and don’t believe they have given up on the season just yet.

“We’re certainly not throwing the towel in,” forward Tommy Wingels said. “That’s not how we think, that’s not how the coaches think, that’s not how management thinks. We’ll do everything we can to be in the playoffs and make a run at the Stanley Cup.”

Kennedy never fit in with the Sharks after being acquired for a second-round pick during the 2013 draft. He had eight goals and 18 assists in 92 games with San Jose.

The Sharks will receive a seventh-round pick in 2015 for Kennedy unless the Islanders win the Stanley Cup and Kennedy plays in at least half the games in the final. In that case, San Jose will get the lower of New York’s or Vancouver’s 2016 third-round pick.

Desjardins had five goals and three assists in 58 games for San Jose this season. He also is used as a penalty killer. He is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Smith had five goals and four assists in 61 games. He is under contract for one more season and is expected to arrive in time to play Monday against Montreal.

The Sharks have lost their past two games in regulation despite leading after two periods, a first in franchise history. The team responded by canceling practice Sunday for a players lunch meeting.

“We’ve tried a lot of things to get our game turned around,” center Logan Couture said. “It was just another thing to try. It doesn’t matter what we do unless we come out and play some better hockey.”

The Sharks held onto some of their pending free agents, most notably goalie Antti Niemi and defensemen Matt Irwin and Scott Hannan. Wilson said the rest of the season will help determine the futures of many of the players who stayed, as well as the coaching staff.

“The results are not acceptable,” Wilson said. “The next 19 games will dictate a lot of the decisions that we make on people. We’re just worried about tonight. We’ll worry about tomorrow when we get down there.”

The Sharks also acquired a 2017 conditional pick from Chicago in the deal for Desjardins. San Jose also acquired defenseman Karl Stollery from Colorado for forward Freddie Hamilton in a deal of minor leaguers.

Forward Tye McGinn was also claimed off waivers by Arizona.

This article was written by Josh Dubow from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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