With his July 22nd salary arbitration hearing date looming, the Sharks have avoided arbitration with Jason Demers all together by signing the 26-year-old defenseman to a two-year, $6.8 million contract that keeps him in teal through at least 2016, when he's slated to become an unrestricted free agent. Demers could have hit free agency a year earlier had he been awarded a one-year deal in arbitration.
"Jason has been a solid offensive defenseman and is coming off a good season," general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "His skill set and age mesh well within our overall group and we're happy to have him signed for two more years."
Demers is coming off a career year offensively in which he tallied 34 points to finish second among Sharks defensemen behind Dan Boyle in that category. What's impressive is that he was able to accomplish that with almost no ice time on the top power play unit. In fact, only 14 defensemen in the entire NHL recorded more even-strength assists than the 20 Demers posted in 2013-14. He was also a positive puck possession player relative to the team despite logging nearly 550 even-strength minutes alongside either Scott Hannan or Brad Stuart. When finally deployed alongside a competent defenseman in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Demers formed one-half of an excellent pairing that regularly shut down opposing star forwards down the stretch in the regular season. Like most players on the team, Demers' postseason performance was uneven at best.
It's unclear whether the right-shooting Demers will be moved to the left side in order to slide into a top-four role at even-strength in the coming year given Brent Burns' switch back to the blueline but regardless of where he plays five-on-five, Demers seems like a very good bet to replace Dan Boyle as the top power play unit's quarterback. Given the likelihood San Jose's power play has a monster bounce-back season, getting Demers inked for that second year is key; he could easily top his already-impressive offensive output from this past season riding shotgun on one of the league's top power plays in 2014-15 and would have had the numbers to demand a long-term deal worth well over $5 million per. At the very least, this contract kicks that particular can down the road another summer.
The Sharks, who also re-signed Taylor Doherty to a one-year, two-way deal that pays him $625,000 at the NHL level, have $6.145 million in remaining cap space but are unlikely to use much of it with 14 forwards and 6 defensemen (with one of Doherty, Matt Tennyson or Mirco Mueller expected to make it 7 after training camp) already signed.