Sharks Trade Middleton, Cogliano, Merkley, Acquire Kahkonen, Bitteto, Picks

The San Jose Sharks in a trade acquired goaltender Kappo Kahkonnen from the Minnesota Wild seen in photo file on Mon Mar 21, 2022 (file photo from Hockey Wilderness)

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– On Monday, the trade deadline, the San Jose Sharks moved three players to playoff contenders. They traded defenseman Jake Middleton to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and a 2022 fifth-round draft pick. Forward Nick Merkley went to the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Anthony Bitteto. The Sharks sent forward Andrew Cogliano to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2024 fifth round draft pick. San Jose also traded goaltender Alexei Melnichuk to the Tampa Bay Lightning for center Antoine Morand.

Jake Middleton has been with the Sharks organization since 2017, when he was signed as a free agent. He played in 59 games with the Sharks, scored nine points and had 82 penalty minutes.

Last season, Kaapo Kahkonen set a Wild rookie record, posting nine consecutive wins. He played 25 games with the Wild this season, posting a record of 12-8-3, a 2.87 GAA and a .910 save percentage. In his 54-game NHL career, his record is 31-17-4, a 2.89 GAA and a .907 save percentage. He will become a restricted free agent next season.

After the trade, Kahkonen talked about the trade and what he knows about the Sharks:

A good team. You know, the games I played against San Jose, I remember there’s a lot of good players there. I think it’s going to be, for sure we’re going to be a team that’s going to be able to compete in the near future and it’s going to be a great opportunity.

Kahkonen was asked whether he expected to be traded by the Wild. He said:

“I had no idea. I was actually on the ice, they pulled me out of there from the morning skate and just told me I had to leave the ice. At first I was kind of thinking that something happened to someone in my family or something but… so I was scared but then I heard I was getting traded.”

In a press release Monday, the Sharks said: “Kaapo is a quick, athletic goaltender who has shown the ability to win consistently at every level he has played,” San Jose assistant general manager Joe Will said. “He provides our club additional depth at the goaltending position this season and in the coming years.”

The Sharks acquired Nick Merkley last summer from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Christian Jaros. Merkley played nine games with the Sharks and earned one goal and two assists.

Of Anthony Bitteto, a Sharks press release said:

“‘Anthony is a physical, veteran defenseman who gives us additional depth on our blueline,’ said Sharks Assistant General Manager Joe Will.

“This season, Bitetto has appeared in 39 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, posting 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) and 26 penalty minutes in 39 games. He ranks second among team defensemen in goals and third in both assists and points.

“Bitetto has appeared in 197 NHL games with Nashville, Minnesota, Winnipeg, and the Rangers, posting 31 points (three goals, 28 assists) and 142 penalty minutes.”

Bitteto will be a free agent this summer.

Andrew Cogliano played 56 games with the Sharks this season, scored four goals and earned eleven assists. He will be a free agent this summer. In a press release, the Sharks said:

“Andrew was an important leader and a respected veteran in our dressing room this season,” said Sharks Assistant General Manager Joe Will. “Our players will be better pros for having had Andrew as a teammate.”

Antoine Morand has yet to play in the NHL. In their press release, the Sharks said:

In 138 AHL games with San Diego and Syracuse, Morand has posted 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists).

The five-foot-eleven, 190-pound native of Chateauguay, Quebec was originally selected by Anaheim in the second round (60th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

Melnichuk appeared in three games with the Sharks last season. In their press release, the Sharks said:

Melnichuk appeared in 31 games with the Barracuda this season, posting a 10-14-2 record with a 3.92 goals-against average and an .867 save percentage.

Tomas Hertl is staying put with an eight-year contract extension, as the Sharks announced last week. The Sharks also did not move goaltender James Reimer, or forward Alexander Barabanov. Both players made the trade rumor mill before the deadline. Barabanov will be a free agent this summer and Reimer has one more season under contract with the Sharks.

Barracuda Beat Roadrunners 5-2; San Jose takes two out three from Roadrunners

The San Jose Barracuda take the rubber game match against the Tucson Roadrunners at Tucson Arena on Sat Mar 19, 2022 to conclude the three game series (image by the San Jose Barracuda)

By Mary Walsh

TUCSON– The San Jose Barracuda beat the Tucson Roadrunners 5-2 Saturday. Sasha Cmelevski, Lane Pedersen, Nick Cicek, Joachim Blichfeld and Nick Merkley scored for San Jose. Alexei Melnichuk made 32 saves for the win. Cole Hults and Travis Barron scored for Tucson. Ivan Prosvetov made 28 saves in the loss.

Sasha Chmelevski scored the opening goal for San Jose at 6:18 of the first period. He carried the puck into the zone and then cut across to the slot, evading defenders. As he passed through the slot he took the shot and beat Prosvetov on the glove side. Assists went to Evan Weinger and Patrick Holway.

Lane Pedersen made it 2-0 at 14:45 with a shot from a bad angle along the boards that snuck by Prosvetov. An assist went to Jayden Halbgewachs.

The Roadrunners got on the board during a five-on-three power play at 10:17 of the second period. The Barracuda’s Ryan Merkley and Sasha Chmelevski were in the box. Cole Hults took the shot from above the circle on a pass from Jan Jenik who was down by the goal line. The puck went over Melnichuk’s shoulder and in. Assists went to Jenik and Michael Carcone.

Nick Cicek restored San Jose’s two-goal lead at 16:24 with a shot from above the circle. Assists went to Weinger and Adam Raska.

At 7:15 of the third, Travis Barron tipped Matt Foley’s shot from the point and made it 3-2. Assists went to Foley and Mitchell Lewandowski. Right before Barron’s goal, Prosvetov made three impressive saves at the other end, fending off a shooting frenzy from the Barracuda.

Joachim Blichfeld scored on the power play at 8:38. After scrambling to keep the puck in, he carried it down to the face-off dot and took a shot that went through some traffic and over Prosvetov’s shoulder. Jake McGrew got an assist.

Sasha Chmelevski won a race to the puck behind the net and made a quick pass to Nick Merkley who had just arrived in front of the net. Merkley wasted no time and whipped the puck into the net at 13:25.

The shots were very close through the game, with the final count being 34-33 Roadrunners. Artemi Kniazev led San Jose in shots with seven. The Barracuda had five power plays and scored on one. Their penalty kill allowed one goal in five penalties.

The Barracuda next play on Tuesday back in San Jose against the Stockton Heat at 7:00 PM PT.

Sharks Fall to Blues 5-3; St Louis scores 3 goals in second period

St Louis Blues goaltender Joel Hofer stopped 23 shots in his first NHL game against the San Jose Sharks on Thu Nov 4, 2021 at SAP Center (AP News photo)

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks lost 5-3 to the St. Louis Blues Thursday. Blues goals came from Brandon Saad (2), Pavel Buchnevich, James Neal and Robert Thomas. Joel Hofer, in his first NHL game, made 23 saves for the win. Sharks goals came from Brent Burns, Logan Couture and Nick Merkley. Adin Hill made 23 saves in the loss.

After the game, Assistant Coach John MacLean was asked whether the Sharks let a win slip away here. He said: “No game’s a given here in the NHL. I mean, yeah we had some opportunities and we let a couple of opportunities slip away.” He summarized the loss as “just one of those games. We can’t forget that St. Louis is a pretty good hockey club and when they got the lead they shut’er down pretty good, they didn’t give us a lot after that.”

The Sharks scored a power play goal at 7:13 of the first. The teams were playing 5 on 3 due to several overlapping penalties. Burns’s one-timer went by three skaters and under Joel Hofer. Assists went to Tomas Hertl and Alexander Barabanov.

Brandon Saad tied it up with a short-handed goal as the Sharks power play was winding down. Tyler Bozak carried the puck into the zone along the boards and made a pass across the ice to Saad on the other side of the ice, avoiding two Sharks defenders. Saad’s quick shot went by Hill on the far side.

Logan Couture got the lead back for the Sharks with his own short-handed goal at 17:16. Couture stole the puck from [x]Faulk in the neutral zone before making a run into the o-zone. His wrist shot snuck under Hofer. Rudolfs Balcers got an assist.

The Sharks out-shot the Blues 12-7 in the first. Their power plays got seven shots on goal and their penalty kill gave up one shot. They also did well in the face-off circle, winning 56% of the draws.

The Blues tied it again at 4:20 of the second. Ivan Barbashev intercepted the puck in the o-zone and found Pavel Buchnevich by the face-off dot with a quick pass. Buchnevich shot it right in and beat Hill over the glove. Assists went to Barbashev and Klim Kostin.

Nick Merkley put the Sharks ahead again less than 30 seconds later. Merkley tipped Mario Ferraro’s shot, sending the puck between Jake Walman’s skates and under Hofer for his first of the season. Assists went to Ferraro and Burns.

Saad tied it again with his second of the night at 8:09. A slick wrist shot from the face-off dot went off the post and in on the far side. Assists went to Robert Thomas and David Perron.

James Neal gave the Blues their first lead of the night at 11:42. Hill stopped Walman’s shot from the point but Neal picked up the rebound and swept it around the Sharks’s goaltender. Assists went to Walman and Tyler Bozak.

The Blues edged the Sharks in the face-off circle in the second period, 10 wins to 9. They also out-shot the Sharks 12-8. Their power play got three shots on goal.

Midway through the third period, Nikko Mikkola sent Logan Couture into the boards. Couture got up slowly and walked into the tunnel but he returned to the bench instead of going to the dressing room. After the game he said he was fine.

Robert Thomas scored an empty-netter with a minute left. Assists went to Colton Parayko and Hofer.

In the final tally, the Sharks won 58% of the face-offs. The Blues outshot the Sharks 28-26. The Sharks had nine shots on the power play and the Blues had four.

Thursday’s game was William Eklund’s ninth game. If he plays another with the Sharks, he cannot be sent down without triggering his entry level contract.

Due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, the Sharks are still without forwards Keving Labanc, Timo Meier, and Matt Nieto, and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Jake Middleton, Radim Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Head Coach Bob Boughner, Head Trainer Ray Tufts and Equipment Manager Mike Aldrich are also out.

Of the Sharks’ young defensemen, John MacLean said: “One of the hardest positions to break into the National Hockey League is playing defense… the experiences they get, they played out of necessity, and you don’t jump on them because they gave a good solid effort.”

Logan Couture also talked about how the inexperienced players are doing:

“The guys that have stepped in and played their second or third NHL games have played well and they’ve given it all they have. The veterans, we can do a better job protecting those guys, playing out of our end and in their end a little bit more.”

The Sharks next play on Saturday at home, against the New Jersey Devils at 7:30 PM PT.