With the July 1st free agency period right upon us, it's time to take a look at how the Sharks will approach tomorrow's festivities. In general, Doug Wilson has avoided making a big splash on hockey's busiest day, citing the tendency for General Manager's to overpay at certain points throughout the year (with the Trade Deadline and NHL Draft being the others) as a reason for playing it close to the vest.
Wilson, of course, finishes San Jose's organizational allotment of overpayment before July 1st begins.
At any rate, what we have here is a meat and bones look at what the Sharks should target tomorrow, along with anything else you need to know heading into free agency.
San Jose currently has $8.965MM in available cap space to use, with nine forwards, six defenseman, and one goaltender under contract. It allows a certain amount of flexibility to sign a notable defenseman during tomorrow's festivities provided a salary clearing move is completed later this summer.
Manny Malhotra, Jay Leach, and Dwight Helminen are the pending unrestricted free agents heading into tomorrow. San Jose is currently in discussions with Malhotra and appear to be pushing hard for him to return. Jay Leach was offered a two-way contract earlier this month, but will test free agency before committing to San Jose's offer.
Unrestricted free agents Jed Ortmeyer and Evgeni Nabokov will not be returning to the team next season.
Devin Setoguchi, Steven Zalewski, and Derek Joslin are the pending restricted free agents who will be on the market tomorrow for teams wishing to extend offer sheets. The Sharks qualified all three of these players earlier this week, and would therefore receive draft pick compensation if they do not match the opposing team's contract offer. A list of those levels of compensation, and the teams unable to go after these players, follows:
Estimated RFA Compensation
|Salary Range ||Compensation||Teams N/A
||2011 3rd Round Pick
||TOR, BOS, CGY, COL, PIT
||2011 2nd Round Pick
||CGY, MIN, MON, NJD, PHI, WSH
||2011 1st & 3rd Round Pick
||TOR, BOS, CGY, COL, PIT|
||2011 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Round Pick
||TOR, CGY, MIN, MON, NJD, PHI, WSH, BOS, COL, PIT
||2011 1st, 2nd, 3rd Round Pick & 2012 1st Round Pick
||TOR, CGY, MIN, MON, NJD, PHI, WSH, BOS, COL, PIT|
||2011, 2012, 2013, & 2014 1st Round Pick
The key need for San Jose going into tomorrow is clearly a top minutes defenseman, one who will be able to play against opposing team's top lines and contribute on the penalty kill. The top six currently in place as of this juncture is a cast of players that inspires little confidence in terms of restricting shots against, especially when you consider the lack of a proven starting goaltender heading into the 2010-2011 season.
As it stands right now, the Sharks blueline would likely be considered a bottom ten unit in the league, something that is concerning after a likely downgrade in the goaltending department.
It's an issue that has plagued the Sharks since the beginning of last season, and one we attempted to remedy before the NHL Trade Deadline by proposing various trades that could help improve San Jose's defensive presence in their own end. However, if this article from sjsharks.com is any indication, it's possible that Doug Wilson feels that the need to acquire anyone in free agency tomorrow might not be the pressing issue that some feel is necessary for success:
On the blue line, the retirement of Rob Blake does open a top four spot, but the Sharks already have six blueliners under contract who played significant time in the Western Conference Finals and aren’t pressed to do anything. Younger players like Derek Joslin, Mike Moore, Nick Petrecki and Matt Irwin, to name a few, will all push for time as well.
The fact that the piece acknowledges Rob Blake's retirement as opening up a top four spot is a breathe of fresh relief, but the cloudy language here (especially when compared to the verbiage used when analyzing the goaltending position) seems strange. Of course it's just a general team release, but the varying tone in the article does indicate where the priorities might be placed tomorrow.
In other words, goaltending seems to be where Doug Wilson will focus his efforts.
The Sharks do require a veteran backstop to come in and have the ability to log roughly sixty starts next season between the pipes, but whether or not he does so is unimportant at this juncture-- Thomas Greiss had a strong season in limited time behind Evgeni Nabokov during 2009-2010, posting a .912 SV% and 2.68 GAA. It's possible that he could compete for the starting role considering the fact that he is at an age where development makes his skill set able to improve, but having that competition in net is a definite requirement for San Jose.
In other words, whether or not the veteran acquisition actually logs sixty starts next year is irrelevant, but he must have the ability to do so.
Fear The Fin has highlighted some potential targets throughout the last month at these positions, both on Twitter, the front page, and in the comments. What follows is a list of players at the defensive and goaltending positions that I find especially relevant to the discussion that will take place beginning at 9 AM tomorrow morning.
UFA Defenseman Targets: Paul Martin, Willie Mitchell, Dan Hamhuis, Zbynek Michalek, Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, Pavel Kubina, Jordan Leopold, Joe Corvo,, Kurtis Foster, , Carlo Coliacavo
UFA Goaltending Targets: Dan Ellis, Chris Mason, Martin Biron, Marty Turco, Ray Emery (if healthy)