Last offseason, Doug Wilson uncharacteristically got involved in the first day of free agency by signing a solid defender in Paul Martin. Make it two years in a row the general manager has made a smart signing on the first day of July.
The signing of David Schlemko gives the Sharks the bottom pairing defender they needed heading into the offseason. With the top four well established, the 29-year-old defender will slot in next to Brenden Dillon. He shoots left-handed and will chip in a little bit of offense, but most importantly he drives possession.
By now you’ve seen his HERO chart twice, but it can’t hurt to see it one more time to hammer home the point I’m making.
That difference is night and day. All through the playoffs Polak was a drag on possession, we just didn’t care when the Sharks were winning. Once he was exposed in the Final, it became pretty clear San Jose needed to get better in its depth positions. They’ve done that.
Schlemko played in 67 games last year, scoring six goals and finishing with 19 points. Those are both career highs for a defender that scores at a once-every-four-game basis. He played at least 50 minutes with four different defenders as a member of the New Jersey Devils last year — I expect there will be quite a bit more consistency this season.
Schlemko’s most frequent partner was Eric Gelinas. They played 220 minutes together (5v5) and posted a 50.76 corsi-for percentage. That’s not too shabby, particularly on a team that finished with a 46.6 CF%. Both those numbers are score, zone and venue adjusted courtesy of Corsica.
The contract, worth a total of $8.4 million, is comparable to the deal Trevor Daley and Jakub Kindl are on. Both of those players were younger than Schlemko when they signed their deals (24 and 26, respectively), but based on his last season I feel pretty comfortable with the term and AAV. This leaves San Jose with $7,005,836 in cap space according to General Fanager.
The Sharks still need to come to terms with Matt Nieto and Dylan DeMelo and will likely need to sign a backup goaltender. If Timo Meier joins the team his salary, although it will be small, will also bring a cap hit with it. So realistically the Sharks have about about 3-4 million dollars to work with if they want to sign another forward.
Even if San Jose decides to promote from within, we can call this first day of free agency a success. Wilson, for the second year in a row, found the Sharks’ biggest hole and plugged it. Schlemko is a great value signing for the Sharks and I can’t wait to see him in teal.