Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the San Jose Sharks and their outlook for the summer.
The San Jose Sharks quietly strolled along in the Pacific Division for much of the season, spending time in 2nd place behind the Vegas Golden Knights. If it wasn’t for slipping considerably down the stretch in a critical time where every point matters, the Sharks would’ve had home ice for their First Round matchup against the Anaheim Ducks.
Instead, head coach Peter DeBoer and his players finished the season 3rd in the Pacific, with 100 points on the season– one point behind Anaheim– and a 45-27-10 record.
For not having the spotlight on the team most of the year and the pressure that had built up in 2016 and 2017 thanks to the club’s Stanley Cup Final run in 2016, General Manager Doug Wilson made a splash acquiring Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline.
The Sharks were all in.
They swept the Ducks in the First Round, proving home ice advantage didn’t matter to them and even beat the Golden Knights on the road in the Second Round in double-overtime.
But San Jose fell to the Vegas offense and stellar goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and the 2018 postseason run was cut short in six games without an appearance by Joe Thornton— in the literal sense, because he was oft-injured this season.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Wilson and the Sharks have the 21st overall pick in the 2018 Draft and could target a defender or fall in line with the “pick the best available” mantra of the first round past the top-10 picks in the draft.
In any case, San Jose realistically has a chance of landing either Jack McBain, Serron Noel, Jared McIsaac, Ryan Merkley, Olivier-Benoit Groulx, Rasmus Sandin, Albin Eriksson, Adam Ginning, Fillip Hallander or Ryan McLeod.
The club does not have any picks in the second or third round as things currently stand at the time of this writing.
Pending free agents
The Sharks have a little more than $7.500 million to work with this summer after delivering a significant pay raise to Evander Kane, keeping him around for the long-term in Northern California, alongside Joe Pavelski.
Speaking of Pavelski, he’ll need a new contract next summer.
Back to the present, for now, though.
Jannik Hansen, Thornton, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward are all pending-unrestricted free agents.
Hansen, 32, might have some staying power in that he’s one of the younger pending-UFAs currently on the NHL roster in San Jose, however, he only amassed 2-12–14 totals in 46 games this season. That’s not good and the Sharks can move on, given the emergence of Marcus Sorensen and, well, the overall outlook of the organization.
It could come down to re-signing one or two of these pending-UFAs if they’re willing to take a tremendous discount and limited role.
While a guy like Thornton wouldn’t have as limited of a role as Hansen, Fehr or Ward, he is coming off of a season plagued by injuries.
If he has anything left in the tank, he’ll be back, but at a discount for sure. Not an $8.000 million, one-year deal, but something like a $1.000 million one-year deal with performance bonuses and the like.
Despite being limited to 47 games this season, the Boston Bruins 1st overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft still had 13 goals and 23 assists (36 points).
At 38, Thornton could be the next ageless wonder, a la Jaromir Jagr— minus all the traveling around the league, because Thornton is that dedicated to the organization he’s been with since the 2005-06 season.
Without a doubt the plan in Silicon Valley is Cup or bust in 2019 and Joe Thornton still haven’t won his Cup.
But he’ll surely take his time to mull over a decision on whether to return or not, let alone return to the game.
Fehr, 32, was a low-cost, potentially high-reward on the fourth line acquisition the Sharks made in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Fehr didn’t have all that far to go to meet up with his new team. He was already on loan to the San Jose Barracuda (AHL).
Unless he can rebound, he might be getting an AHL deal this summer.
Drafted by the Washington Capitals 18th overall in the deep 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Fehr had three goals and one assist (four points) in 18 games with the Sharks and Maple Leafs this season.
He won’t be back.
Like Thornton, Joel Ward is getting up there in age. He’s 37 and really slowing down in offense. Ward had 5-7–12 totals in 52 games this season and did not play in the postseason. He may still find an NHL team or two interested in his services this summer, but it’ll be outside of San Jose.
Doug Wilson’s biggest priorities this offseason is keeping things intact while envisioning a younger defense somewhere down the not-so-distant line.
But first, he’ll have to re-sign pending-RFAs Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney.
Hertl, 24, had 22 goals and 24 assists (46 points) in 79 games this season. He’ll be looking for dollars or term and the Sharks will have to work around some things to give it to him, but they absolutely should.
Tierney, 23, has proven to be an effective second or third line center with 17-23–40 totals in 82 games this season. It’s the first time in his young NHL career (4th season) that he’s played in all 82 games in the regular season and he’ll continue to play in many more as long as he’s got a spot on San Jose’s special teams– most notably, at times, killing penalties.
Then there’s pending-RFA blueliner Dylan DeMelo.
The 25-year-old’s role on the Sharks defense increased this season as Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Paul Martin— though better than average combined– continued to age.
DeMelo had 20 assists in 63 games played this season. He can move the puck and shutdown the opponent on any given night. He’s also in the sweet-spot for a defenseman in their prime.
Finally, the Sharks are set in net with Martin Jones, 28, under contract through the 2023-24 season at a $5.750 million cap hit as their starter and Aaron Dell, 29, on a fresh two-year extension at $1.900 million per year as the backup.
Seriously though, Jones is perhaps the best goaltender– if not one of the best– in franchise history and he’s signed at an affordable cap hit for a starting goaltender of his caliber.
Look, we love Evgeni Nabokov as much as the next guy, but Jones carries the promise of potentially bringing the franchise its first Cup on his current contract and he’s not even being paid $6.000 million or more like other elite goaltenders in this league.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Brandon Mashinter (UFA)