For the second time this year, the Sharks have traded away a former first-round pick.
Defenseman Mirco Mueller has been packaged to the New Jersey Devils, along with a 2017 fifth round draft pick, for second and fourth round selections in the 2017 draft the club announced on Saturday.
The Sharks now have eight selections in next weekend's draft in Chicago, including their own first round pick (19th overall) and New Jersey's second rounder (49th overall).
Mueller was selected 18th overall by the Sharks in 2013 and played in 54 career games for the club over three seasons (2g, 4a, 17 PIM). He managed to play in just four games in 2016-17, though, and was seemingly passed over by other young blueliners in the organization like Dylan DeMelo, Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan. The Sharks added Czech free agent defenseman Radim Simek and Union College's Nick DeSimone in recent weeks, bolstering their organizational depth at that position, and also have 2015 second round pick Jeremy Roy.
The deal was made just before Saturday's noon trade freeze sandwiched round the expansion draft. Mueller, 22, was eligible to be chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights, and was almost certainly not going to be protected by the Sharks. He is a pending restricted free agent.
Compared to Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic on draft day primarily due to his strong skating ability, Mueller did not pan out as hoped. The Sharks shoulder some of the blame as Mueller was rushed to the NHL in 2013-14, likely stunting his growth and messing with his head.
Compounding the letdown is that the Sharks traded a second round pick to Detroit in the 2013 draft to move up just two places to select Mueller. They used their remaining second round pick to choose Gabryel Boudreau, who is no longer with the organization, partially due to injury.
A fresh start on a rebuilding team could serve Mueller – who has plenty of raw ability, with a sprinkle of grit – well in his career.
That the Sharks managed to get second and fourth round picks for Mueller is commendable, as earlier in the day the Montreal Canadiens managed to get just a third round pick from Buffalo for NHL regular Nathan Beaulieu. The Sharks did not have a second round pick in the 2017 draft before the trade, as it was sent to Toronto as part of the Roman Polak/Nick Spaling trade in 2016.
"We want to thank Mirco for his years of service to the San Jose Sharks and the San Jose Barracuda organizations," general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "This will be an excellent opportunity for Mirco to continue his development and with our organization's depth on the blue line, an opportunity for us to acquire assets for the future. We wish him the best."
The Sharks sent 2014 first round pick Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall, 2014) to Vancouver as part of the deal for Jannik Hansen on Feb. 28. They did not have a first round pick at last year's draft, as that was previously traded to Boston for goalie Martin Jones.