Looking Forward

And no, we're not talking about forwards specifically.

I've been saving this post until the deadline due to the nature of the day- picking up players who are under contract till after the 2009 playoffs potentially changes the whole look of the team going forward, and frankly I didn't want to toss anything out two days ago only to have it erased in one fell Doug Wilson swoop.

What we're looking at is the Sharks roster for next year, the salary cap implications, and what yesterday's small roster tweaks mean.

[Editor's Note]: Rosterbation is healthy in small quantities but may cause blindness if engaged in for prolonged periods of time.

Forwards Under Contract

Skater Cap Hit Yrs. Left Status
Joe Thornton 7.20 2 UFA
Patrick Marleau 6.30 1 UFA
Milan Michalek 4.33 5 UFA
Jonathan Cheechoo 3.00 2 UFA
Joe Pavelski 1.637 1 RFA
Devin Setoguchi 1.247 1 RFA
Jody Shelley 0.725 1 UFA
Total (7) 24.439 - -

Defensemen Under Contract

Skater Cap Hit Yrs. Left Status
Dan Boyle 6.667 5 UFA
Christian Ehrhoff 3.10 2 UFA
Brad Lukowich 1.567 1 UFA
Marc-Edouard Vlasic 3.10 4 UFA
Douglas Murray 2.50 4 UFA
Total (5) 16.934 - -

Goaltenders Under Contract

Goaltender Cap Hit Yrs. Left Status
Evgeni Nabokov 5.375 1 UFA
Total (1) 5.375 - -

All Players Under Contract

Forwards Defensemen Goaltenders TOTAL
24.439 16.934 5.375 46.75

Whew. Got all that? Okay, now this is where it gets dicey. The salary cap currently sits at $56.7 M dollars, and it's unsure whether it will rise slightly, fall slightly, or stay the same due to the global economic meltdown. For the purpose of looking forward, we will assume that it stays the same next year. Keep in mind that the "next two seasons will be incredibly interesting as the CBA comes under true duress, as it's all but certain we'll now see the cap stagnate and likely fall in that time" [From The Rink].

So with all of these things in play, San Jose needs to do three things to work themselves into a feasible NHL roster- a) sign/promote 6-7 forwards b) sign/promote 2 defenseman and c) sign/promote one goaltender. If we're playing the safe side of things (assuming the Sharks only scratch one defensemen and one forward per game), that is 9 players to fit in with roughly 10 million dollars of cap space.

Take into account that this is on a purely "within the organization" standpoint, and does not deal with the broader period of NHL free agency (it's generally more expensive too).

A look at all the impending UFA's/RFA's shows that some fairly big decisions are going to need to be made in the offseason. I've taken the liberty of throwing out some rough estimates of players expected salaries, trying to stay on the lower end of things. For example, Mike Grier's contract will likely exceed his salary for this season in the open market- his PK contributions, leadership, and decent scoring ability (empty nets notwithstanding) could return around 2 million dollars from a team on the cusp looking to pony up that sort of dough (Columbus would be interested I'm sure)- for the sake of this though, we're just giving him this season's salary. A guy like Jeremy Roenick however, given his current role on the team, may take a slight pay cut.

Free Agent Forwards

Skater Status Cur. Salary Est. Salary
Mike Grier UFA 1.775 1.775
Ryane Clowe RFA 1.60 3.25
Jeremy Roenick UFA 1.10 0.80
Marcel Goc RFA 0.775 1.00
Torrey Mitchell RFA 0.715 0.715
Tomas Plihal RFA 0.500 0.700
Claude Lemieux UFA 0.500 0.500
Travis Moen UFA .912 .912
TOTAL - 7.877 9.452

Clowe is really the one that worries me here- keeping him and remaining under the cap is going to be a tight squeeze with the current makeup of the team. It's not going to help that prospective GM's (Kevin Lowe I know you're out there) will be waiting in the wings to slap down an offer sheet.

I think it's safe to say Claude Lemieux's comeback will end, Marcel Goc will see a slight raise (probably a one-two year deal), Tomas Plihal will be signed due to his affordability and effective defensive play, and Torrey Mitchell will be inked to a one-two year deal worth the same as this year. It's almost a blessing in disguise that he's coming back so late in the season, in that the Sharks have been fine without him thus far and won't be on the hook for a raise.

The jury is still out on Moen, Grier, and Roenick returning- Moen is an unknown for obvious reasons, Grier's PK duties can be taken over by Marleau, Michalek, Plihal, Mitchell, and Pavelski. JR's future is still in doubt (although he has mentioned the Sharks are his last team and hinted at a possible return). We'll include him for now, for no other reason than he's a good looking dude and we would love to see him in teal again- injuries may end this dance prematurely however, much like your first time with a.....yeah, not re-using that joke again.

Worcester Sharks: Vesce, Kaspar, Cavanagh, and Armstrong need to be resigned. McGinn is under contract for roughly one million dollars over the next two years. In order to fill out the roster, one of these players is going to need to stick at next year's tryout.

For the sake of getting a number in with a player who could theoretically contribute, we'll go with McGinn at one million.

Players Signed: Clowe, Goc, Plihal, Mitchell, Roenick, McGinn.

Salary: 7.215 for the aforementioned players, team at 53.965; roughly 2.785 in room.

Free Agent Defensemen

Skater Status Cur. Salary Est. Salary
Rob Blake UFA 5.00 2.75
Alexei Semenov UFA 0.650 0.70
Kent Huskins UFA 0.625 0.625
TOTAL - 6.275 4.075

It's all but a guarantee that Rob Blake takes a pay cut next season if he decides not to retire- there's no way he commands the exorbitant amount of 5 million dollars that he's currently raking in. Although he tends to take some bad penalties (to be honest Boyle has been in the same boat lately), I would love him at this estimated price. The experience and grit he brings to the table would be worth every penny in my book, and without his shot from the point the power play takes a dive in productivity.

Semenov has exceeded all expectations this season and could probably be had for cheap. His size is a good addition to the blueline, and as long as he continues to improve in executing breakout passes and not punching pucks into the net he's going to be alright.

Huskins is obviously an unknown.

Worcester Sharks: Derek Joslin has played well up for the big club during his respective stints. He reminds me of Luko in that mistakes are at a minimum and defensive responsibility is the main focus. Under contract for next season at a cheap price (.517), but it's safe to say he could use more development.

Players Signed:  Blake, Semenov.

Salary: 3.45 for the aforementioned players, team at 57.415; roughly -0.715 in room. All defensemen signed.

Free Agent Goaltenders

Goaltender Status Cur. Salary Est. Salary
Brian Boucher UFA 0.650 1.00
TOTAL - .650 1.00

Brian Boucher is a tough player to read due to his sparse starts on a team with one of the best GA's in the league. With goaltending at a premium however, his allegiance to Doug Wilson will be tested as well as the market price for his above average numbers. Jury's still out on this one folks, but we're going to assume he is signed for 1.00. It's about as low as it can go before sounding utterly ridiculous.

Worcester Sharks: Thomas Greiss has put up uninspired numbers this season with the Worcester Sharks (3.09 GAA with a .892 SV%), and coupled with his stint last season on the big club, it looks like he needs more time in development.

Players Signed: Boucher.

Salary: 1.00 for the aforementioned player, team at 58.415; roughly -1.715 in room. All goaltenders signed.

*********************

With all those factors in play, the Sharks will be carrying an NHL team with 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders. The estimates peg them over the cap at -1.715 M, which could go either way depending on how things shake out. Regardless of whether the estimates are on or off, here or there, it's going to be a tight fit. If there's a consensus in the comments that the numbers are off for a specific player, and a more acceptable number is reached, things will be changed here accordingly. No sense in rosterbating if everyone can't have fun.

This season is probably the siren song for a few notable players, and their names have been chronicled extensively both in the posts, comments, and radio. Looking at both the defense and forwards signed going forward, it stands to reason that Cheechoo will be gone at draft day and Ehrhoff might be on the move as well.

The only problem I have with moving Ehrhoff is his upside. The constant lapses in judgement in the defensive zone and attempts to stickhandle through the nuetral zone get tiresome, but there was a stretch during the middle of this season where he was brilliant. The upcoming playoffs will likely determine his future with the team, and I'm hoping he proves to all of us that he can be consistent from big game to big game (which applies to the whole team, but I digress). If he turns it on I would be content with letting Blake walk- both to save salary space, and for the future of the organization.

Before I wrap this up, also note (and this is a huge one)- Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, and Evgeni Nabokov will all be free agents after next season. The decisions Doug Wilson makes in this offseason will have long lasting affects going forward. Every single one of them has proved that a pay raise is absolutely necessary, although Patty's commitment to the franchise should be acknowledged. Regardless, it's a lot of money that will be thrown around.

*********************

Going forward things look tough eh. But at the same time, those words are so, well, irrelevant no? This is the year. Doug Wilson could have made a move to clear some cap space and add a depth UFA yesterday, but didn't. He probably will receive less in return for any moves he makes at draft day than he would have at the deadline- but he didn't pull the trigger. Jonathan Cheechoo hasn't been anything to write home about all year, but is contributing on the third line in a checking role and could get hot down the stretch if him and Moen click. Goc, Grier, Roenick, and Mitchell are four players who could come in at the end of the season and inject some life into the team. Wilson gave up prospects to add two guys who have won a Stanley Cup.

Looking at the salary cap implications above, it seems like the Sharks best year to win the Cup is now. We have young guys outplaying their contracts, and veteran players who have been there before.

Cup rings in the locker room last year? Zero. Cup rings now? Six. It may seem minute, but for a team that has been perceived to crumble when adversity strikes, it will be a big factor. Can it win a series alone? Of course not. But if we're headed to game six on the road down 3-2 in the series, it will be a presence the Sharks have never had before.

 

Go Sharks.

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