The third-line center has been a revolving door since Joe Thornton went to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2020-21 season. Some personal favorites include Noah Gregor, Dylan Gambrell, Nick Bonino, Patrick Marleau, and Alexander True. Nico Sturm took over the role last year and performed admirably in the spot, but it looks like Mikael Granlund is the newest 3C for the San Jose Sharks.
Last season, Granlund split time between the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Nashville, Granlund put up a respectable 36 points in 58 games, with 27 of those points being assists. After getting traded to the Penguins at the trade deadline, Granlund struggled to produce with a new team and scored 5 points in 21 games. A huge reason for the decline is the lack of power play time. Granlund averaged over 3 minutes a game with a man advantage with the Predators and scored 12 points. With the Penguins, Granlund was under 2 minutes a game with the man advantage and scored 0 points in that time.
Mikael Granlund was acquired by the San Jose Sharks this summer in the blockbuster deal that sent Erik Karlsson to Pittsburgh. Granlund was rumored to be a potential buyout candidate this offseason by the Penguins because of the two years left on his deal that carries a $5 million cap hit. Granlund is an excellent passer but struggled at even strength last season in both the offensive and defensive zones.
Where does Granlund fit?
Mikael Granlund, who turned 31 in February, has become a special team specialist at this point. The good thing is that the Sharks really could use some help on the power play. Last season, the Sharks power play was a one unit team with Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Alexander Barabanov, and Timo Meier. With the additions of Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, and Granlund, and the expectation that William Eklund will be a full-time NHLer this year, the Sharks should be able to trot out two competent power plays (at least among the forward group). With no clear quarterback on the power play, Granlund could be the answer for the Sharks if they wanted Granlund and his exceptional passing to run the unit.
At even strength, Mikael Granlund will probably be the third line center. It will be important to find Granlund the proper linemates as he is more of a passenger at this rate. A potential line of Hoffman-Granlund-Fabian Zetterlund could be interesting. Zetterlund would need to be the playdriver on the line, but Hoffman’s scoring ability and Granlund’s passing could make this line work.
If Granlund doesn’t fit work out at center, a move to the wing could be possible. This would be best for fans who want to see Thomas Bordeleau playing meaningful minutes at center. Bordeleau can drive a line and elevate the players around him, and having a Granlund-Bordeleau-Hoffman line would be very intriguing. And if an injury to Hertl or Couture pops up, Granlund can slide back into the pivot when necessary.
What’s next for Granlund?
With two years left on his deal at $5 million, Mikael Granlund probably isn’t going to be an attractive player at the upcoming trade deadline. The hope for the Sharks is that Granlund has a bounce-back season, and they can trade him next offseason to a team looking to upgrade their middle six. The path to having a bounce-back season is there for Granlund; he should have plenty of opportunities on the power play to juice his totals.
Players respond differently to trades. When Granlund was traded from the Minnesota Wild to the Predators in 2019, he also struggled to end the season with just 5 points in 16 games for the Preds. Granlund posted 30 points in 63 games the next season with 17 goals. If Granlund can get settled in and find some early chemistry with his linemates, there shouldn’t be a reason for him to be around the 40-point mark for the Sharks this season. Then, try and sell “high” next offseason as the Sharks open up roster spots for some of their younger players.
Bold Prediction: Mikael Granlund puts up 30 assists for the Sharks next season.