San Jose Sharks: Despite Mirage, Offseason Can Still Be Strong
The San Jose Sharks didn’t make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, or even the Western Conference Finals, but overall, it wasn’t a bad season. The Sharks demolished the Anaheim Ducks in the first round and gave the Vegas Golden Knights a couple of good games in the second round. On top of this, they managed to pick up one of the most sought-after impending free agents of this upcoming summer before the free agency had even opened.
It was a season of evolution for the San Jose Sharks, who have been trusting more of their young talents while gradually shedding the elder statesmen, such as Patrick Marleau last summer. Now, with one of the best defenses in the league and solid goaltending team led by Martin Jones, the Sharks also have a rather large amount of cap space to play with when the free agency rolls around. But, first comes first, the Sharks will need to deal with their expired contracts.
How far can the $13 million go?
At the beginning of May, according to Sportsnet, the San Jose Sharks were looking at having up to $20 million in projected cap space should the salary cap rise to $80 million. A few weeks later, to the joy of all in teal, the Sharks snapped up Evander Kane to a long-term, $7 million-per-year deal. The lightning left wing set the Shark Tank ablaze with nine goals, 14 points, and a +5 rating in the regular season as well as five more points in his first-ever playoff appearances. Kane stated that he always wanted to stay in San Jose, per The Mercury News, and the fans couldn’t be happier with the addition of such a prized, top-caliber sniper. So that potentially leaves $13 million in cap space. The biggest name set to hit the free agency is 38-year-old Joe Thornton.
He pulled in $8 million last season and said that he’s sure that himself and the club can come to an arrangement as he wants to come back, as reported by The Hockey News. Given his injury struggles, the Sharks may be hesitant to give him a big deal, perhaps something more in the $3 million region. Another pressing matter for Thornton is that he’s, surprisingly, never won the Stanley Cup. This year, without ‘Jumbo’ on the ice, the Sharks lost in six games to the inaugural Vegas Golden Knights, who are, as of May 25, favored to beat the +115 Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup with Betway. With Evander Kane on board, San Jose’s hopes look a little brighter, but another player is needed for a run at the Cup, and for that, Thornton’s contract will need to be cut down.
Assuming that Thornton does re-sign for another season and takes a decent pay-cut, you’d think that San Jose could gun for the biggest name on the market, John Tavares, 2 with the cool $10 million left over. Unfortunately not. Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, and Dylan DeMelo are all restricted free agents this summer, and it’d be reasonable to expect them to get yearly salaries of around $5 million, $2.5 million, and $1 million, respectively. That’s possibly another $8.5 million going to leave around $1.5 million potentially. While it would have been nice to go after a John Tavares and simultaneously lose Jannik Hansen – an unrestricted free agent this summer with Eric Fehr and Joel Ward – Kane, Hertl, Tierney, and perhaps DeMelo will likely eat up muchof the remaining budget. But, there’s still hunting to be done in the summer.
Viable targets for the Sharks
Even with a budget of $1.5 million, good business can still be done in the free agency. If Thornton remains in teal, the pressing need is for a bottom-six winger who could put some heat under those in the top-six. Right now, Barclay Goodrow and Marcus Sorensen could end up manning the bottom-six, which will not fill many Sharks fans with hope. Neither has been able to make much of an impact in the NHL – admittedly in limited minutes. But, the $1.5 million could be enough to draw in the high-scoring, versatile winger Michael Grabner or, in a move that would rectify a rather shameful trade, they could sign six-year Shark Tommy Wingels – his aggression and tenacity would certainly help to assist and protect the many young Sharks of the lower lines.
Then again, if Thornton doesn’t sign, San Jose could have a further $3 million to go fishing with. Firstly, to replace the hole at center, San Jose could keep Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Chris Tierney up the middle and bring in Maxim Letunov or Dylan Gambrell – who played a few games last year – for the bottom set. Or, they could shuffle Hertl back to center and have Tierney man the fourth line. Option number three would be to seek a strong bottom-six center, of which there are a couple of decent udget options. Derek Ryan of the Carolina Hurricanes has proven himself to be a decent NHL center despite only spending two seasons in the league by age 31. Another center who’s very strong in the duel and still offers some creative spark is Antoine Vermette, who clocked in a phenomenal 60.0 faceoff win percentage through over 1000 duels last season.
While the big flashy numbers swirling around the San Jose Sharks for their offseason sound appealing, the fact is that they probably won’t have too much to play with. Nevertheless, the Sharks already look primed to take another step towards contending for the Stanley Cup next season and, if they’re shrewd in the summer, they can certainly add another strong piece to the puzzle.