Now that the sharks season is over after a very good post-season, and I have had time to think about what a great season this was. Now the focus will shift to our free agents and who should we keep. The sharks have 12 players signed throughout next year and have 20 million cap space for the last 8-9 players that we need to get. By my count, it looks as though the sharks need to sign 3 top six forwards, 1 top four Dman and a bottom pairing Dman, and a starting goaltender. I am only going to discuss our free agents right now, because we have so many people we need to resign. The free agents are considered in no specific order, this is just how i remember them.
So first off, lets start with Joe Pavelski:
Stat line for the playoffs: 9 goals, 8 assists for 17 points (best on the sharks) and a +6
Joe Pavelski was a beast in the playoffs, earning a great deal of respect around the league, and also making contributions throughout the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. The only knock on Pavelski these playoffs was that he did not provide the scoring depth for the sharks in the 3rd round versus the Blackhawks. Then again, the blackhawks are most probably the deepest roster in the league, and that really hurt Pavelski because he did not get to play against a weaker line. Even though he did not score in the third round, the second line put on a lot of pressure and almost broke through multiple times, but Niemi was as hot as a goalie can get. Nonetheless, Pavelski is a great player and it will be his time to become a superstar real soon.
Re-signing Pavelski may be one of the largest off-season tasks that Doug Wilson must take care off. Luckily for us, Pavelski is a Restricted Free Agent, so he will be ours to resign and knowing Doug Wilson, he will get this done real soon.
Priority for Resigning: 5 stars.
Contract for Pavelski: 7 year $28 million. (4 mill/year).
Next on the Free agent list is Devin Setoguchi.
Stat line for the Playoffs: 5 goals, 4 assists for 9 points and was a +3
Devin really benefited by playing alongside Pavelski, but also provided a lot of physical play and proved to us that he can skate and play with the best of them. Although Setoguchi did not exactly have eye popping numbers, we also have to realize that he is 23 and that this experience will help make him confident for seasons and post-seasons to come. The line of Setoguchi - Pavelski - Clowe will be the premier second line in the NHL next year, and i believe that they are very close to becoming an elite line.
Re-signing Setoguchi will be pretty easy, considering he is a Restricted free agent and that the McGinns and the Coutures seem ready to step up into the line up day in and day out, so getting Setoguchi to sign relatively cheap should not be a big concern.
Priority for resigning: 4 stars
Contract for Setoguchi: 5 year $17.5 million (3.5 mill/year).
The next free agent that came to my mind was Manny Malhotra.
Stat line for the playoffs: 1 goal and 0 assists and he was a -1.
Yeah, the stat line does not say much, but the intangibles that Manny brought to the locker room also need to be talked about. He played solid minutes on a 3rd line that did a good job of shutting down the opposition's lines whoever they were playing. Manny brought leadership, character, speed, grit, and helped groom Logan Couture a great mentor.
Manny had a chance to take a 4 year $8 million contract, but instead he turned it down to come play for the Sharks. That says a lot about Manny's character and drive. It is not about long term security for him, it is about winning a Stanley cup. The emergence of Logan Couture as a 3rd line center or winger with Mitchell, it seems as though Malhotra may be expandable, but his intangibles and puck hawking abilities make him a must keep.
Priority for Resigning: 3 stars
Contract for Malhotra: 3 year $4 million (1.33 mill/year).
Free agent #4: Patrick Marleau.
Stat line for the playoffs: 8 goals and 5 assists for 13 points and he was a -3.
Arguably the best player for the sharks in the 2nd part of the 2nd round and all of the third round. As much as Pavelski was the MVP for the sharks in the 1st round, Patrick Marleau was the same guy for the 3rd round and part of the 2nd round. In the 3rd round, Patrick Marleau was the only player that could score for the sharks, and he showed that there is a new level to his game when he gets to the playoffs. He may have looked weak in the first round, but so did the rest of the top line. After that round though, Marleau broke out nicely and showcased why he was the leading point scorer in the playoffs all time for the sharks.
He also spent most of the season as maybe the most skilled 2 way forward in the game. This may be a little biased, but after all he was the sharks best player in the regular season and was a great player in the playoffs. The hard part about this is that to resign Marleau, we will need to get him to take a hometown discount.
Priority For resigning: 4.5 stars
Contract for Marleau: 4 year $16 million ($4 mill/year)
P.S. I know this is a stretch, but i think that Marleau will take a pay cut to ensure the fact that he will stay in San Jose for the rest of his career.
Free Agent #5: Scott Nichol.
Stat line for the Playoffs: 1 goal and 1 assist and a -1.
Scott Nichol changed the culture in San Jose and made our team a solid checking team. He brought the grit that we missed oh so much against the ducks just a year ago. Scott Nichol showed us what energy shifts are supposed to be about. He played the game like a true 4th liner, and chipped in with timely assists and goals. This is one player that we cannot let go of, because he bought some of the most inspiring play that i have seen in a long time from the sharks.
Priority for resigning: 5 stars
Contract for Nichol: 3 year $1.8 million ($600k/year)
Now we move on, and lets start with the 2 most senior players on the sharks. Rob Blake went from Captain Hook to a solid top 4 Dman in the playoffs. He made up for all the hooking penalties he took in the regular season by playing solid hockey and turning into a captain that kept this team together.
Niclas Wallin, in his short stint with the sharks, played some solid minutes for the sharks, but did not really do much else, although he really did not have time to do anything else either.
For these 2, i believe that the only way the sharks resign either of these 2 is if they each take a 1 year $500k contract or a 2 year $1 million deal. They would be great additions to the depth of the defensive core for the sharks next year, and they would provide great leadership in the playoffs.
The other free agents are pieces that Doug Wilson put together on this team and he is an architect that all sharks fans trust in, so with that, lest hope for the best and in Doug Wilson we trust.