NHL free agency begins 12 hours from now, and the Fear the Fin staff has some thoughts. Below, enjoy e-mail Q&A with (lightly edited) responses from our writers, much like the one we did for the NHL Draft.
Where, for how long, and for how much money will Patrick Marleau sign in free agency?
East Bay Ry: In a fair and just universe, he signs with the Sharks. 2 years $4.5 million per year. In the Darkest Timeline, he signs with the Kings, for 7 years, at league minimum, plays all 7 years, and he scores a rooster trick every time he plays against the Sharks. If we're living somewhere in between, he goes to the Rangers for 3 years at $5.4 million per year.
Evan Arnold: It’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where Marleau re-signs with the Sharks. Patty is still in the stage of his career where he’ll be looking for a longer-term deal than the Sharks are willing to offer him, and there are plenty of teams with the cap-space and flexibility to make it happen. Knowing Patty’s deep connection with his family, I would guess that he would like to stay somewhere in the West, and maybe even California. It might hurt to hear, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Marleau is playing for either the Kings or Ducks next year on a three-year, $15 million deal. RIP to all of our hearts.
Kyle Demetrius: Marleau re-signs in San Jose for three years, $4 million each year.
Marcus White: I think Patrick Marleau will sign a two-year, $12 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s already been linked to Toronto, and their young talent plus Head Coach Mike Babcock’s unabashed appreciation for his skillset makes them a good fit on a team that could contend as soon as next season.
Sierra Morley: I can see him ending up in Dallas. They'll be looking to replace any combination of Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, and Jiri Hudler and Marleau could help in solving that. Nill would probably give him the three year contract he's looking for. He'll sign at $16 million over three years.
Where, for how long, and for how much money will Joe Thornton sign in free agency?
East Bay Ry: In a fair and just universe, he's back with the Sharks, healthy, and on top of his game. 2 years, $6m per. In the Darkest Timeline, he signs with Pittsburgh for 1 season at $1m. I don't feel like there in an in between scenario.
Erik Johnsgard: (Yeah, I cheated, I'm sorry). It looks more and more like Joe Thornton may be waiting on Patrick Marleau's decision before he makes his own. With that in mind, where could they both go that has a shot at a Cup, and enough cap space over the next two to three years to accommodate them?
As much as I'd love to see Nashville step up, seeing as they're the hockey world's baby now (myself included), I think Montreal makes the most sense. They have no depth at center, especially if they move Galchenyuk as rumors have stated, and Thornton would be a solid first/second center with Thomas Plekanec until the latter's deal expires at the end of this season, giving the Habs a year to put together a package for a number one solution like Duchene or Tavares. As for Patty, it's doubtful that Montreal (or anyone) is willing to meet the absurd asking price of Alexander Radulov's camp. Marleau's 46 points last season trails Radulov's 54, but his 27 goals beats Radulov's by nine. Montreal has one more year to take a shot before Carey Price's agent McDavids them, and Thornton and Marleau could get them there. Also, they'd look a lot better in Montreal jerseys this year than in Nashville ones (wouldn't anybody?)
Evan Arnold: Contrary to Marleau’s situation, I’m definitely not ruling out Jumbo playing in teal again next season. His future always seems to be linked to Patrick’s, but in this case the longtime teammates might be going their separate ways. If Jumbo is willing to accept a short-term deal, I believe he’ll give it one last go in San Jose. And if he really wants to win, he might consider taking a hometown discount to bring in some more firepower. Let’s call it a two-year, $10 million deal to stay in San Jose.
Kyle Demetrius: Thornton re-signs in San Jose for three years, $4 million each year.
Basically, the Marleau and Thornton deals are tied together. I don't see them leaving, as much as it seems reasonable for them to join a Pittsburgh, Nashville, Montreal or Toronto. I believe Wilson will ante up what he needs to in order to keep the two most legendary Sharks in teal until they retire. They take "discounts" but still make money. Everyone is happy and the Sharks can take one more kick at the can with this crew.
Marcus White: I think Joe Thornton will sign a two-year, $12 million deal with the Nashville Predators. They’ve reached out to him, his parents often met up with him in the city when the Sharks traveled to Nashville for games, and they could use a reliable center behind Ryan Johansen. Yes, Mike Fisher has been with the franchise for a while, but Predators General Manager David Poile has demonstrated repeatedly since 2016 that he is willing to upgrade his roster, even if it’s at the expense of players that have long played for the franchise.
Sierra Morley: Nashville probably looks pretty good to Jumbo. They've got the cap space to bring him on and being past the rebuilding stage is pretty appealing. $18 million over three years.
Which unrestricted free agent do you most want the Sharks to sign?
East Bay Ry: If Thornton and Marleau leave, they will need two top 6 forwards, preferably one being a center. Hanzal is a potential fit, as Erik pointed out a few days ago. Jaromir Jagr would be a fun add, who could help on the power play; also, how happy would Hertl be if the Sharks sign Jagr? P.A. Parenteau and Benoit Pouliot are useful players, who will likely be good value signings. Finally, there a few young players available: Alexander Burmistrov, Nail Yakupov, and Mikail Grigorenko. These guys are young and skilled, but they have not developed into the players that they were projected to be at this point. I wouldn't mind the Sharks giving one of these guys an opportunity to get their career back on track on a short term deal. Low risk, potentially high reward.
Erik Johnsgard: I like Radim Vrbata. Yes, he's 36, and that's a fair concern, but he can play anywhere in the lineup, he can shore up the power play which was a disaster last year, and the last time he put up less than half a point per game in a season where he played more than 60 games was in Carolina in 2003-04. He even somehow coerced 55 points out of the Coyotes last season. Despite all this, Vrbata just seems like the kind of guy who gets a $4M, two-year, bargain basement contract from somebody a la Parenteau. Why shouldn't that somebody be San Jose?
Evan Arnold: It’s not the strongest UFA market this offseason, but I think the Sharks should go for more of the value picks rather than the blockbuster signings. In this instance, I think Nick Bonino would be a great pickup. Although due to his championship pedigree, his asking price might be a little higher than desired. Thomas Vanek might be a strong backup option.
He’s not a UFA, per se, but I’d like the Sharks to at least kick the tires on Ilya Kovalchuk. Yes, he’s old. No, he doesn’t play defense. But something inside of me just wants to see a flashy Russian light the lamp. The Sharks haven’t had an exciting offense for a while now, and what better way to light a fire under it than by signing a super high-risk Russian. What could possibly go wrong?
KyleDemetrius: The free agent class this year is uh, quite thin. There is a name I would love to see on San Jose flying around the wings and sniping goals. That would be Alexander Radulov. He would become an instant weapon on the power play, not to mention him playing wing with Jumbo would be insanity. The one problem here is apparently he wants the vault to be opened for him on a long contract.
BONUS: please, please, PLEASE offer sheet Leon Draisaitl. The rumours of McDavid's extension makes it almost impossible for Edmonton to match a, say, $9 million x seven year contract for Draisaitl. He would plug a lot of holes and replenish the young talent. Wilson is part of the old boys club who are apparently allergic to offer sheets or doing anything considered "predatory," so it most likely won't happen. But Leon in teal would be incredible.
Marcus White: Since I think both players are leaving, the Sharks are going to need to do something to try and replace Marleau and Thornton’s offense. Doug Wilson’s best best to do so is via trade, so I think the team should focus on finding good value. Sam Gagner likely won’t command as much as some of the second-tier centers and wingers available, and the Sharks could use a reliable 30-50 point scorer in the event Thornton and Marleau leave.
If they do stay, and they can make the cap hit and term work, I say go all in for Radulov. At that point, you’re fully committed to contending, so why not push your chips all in? Even with the Jones and Vlasic deals set to kick in next offseason, there remains some flexibility because of San Jose’s rookie contracts. I’d even pay Radulov a little more annually to keep the term down and maintain maximum future flexibility.
Sierra Morley: I really like Ales Hemsky. If the Sharks lose one or both of Thornton or Marleau, Hemsky is younger and can be similarly effective. He missed much of last season due to injury and that might keep him off the radar during free agency. Nail Yakupov could also be an interesting addition to the forward group.
Which unrestricted free agent should the Sharks avoid at all costs?
East Bay Ry: In general, I am not crazy about signing free agents on July 1. The contracts are almost always bad. Doug Wilson has, in general, done a good job not overpaying for past their prime UFAs, which is a great thing. A couple players I want nothing to do with:
Shane Doan—I don't think there is any chance that his happens, but I would hate to seen the husk of a long time rival wearing team. Also, he is done and should retire a Coyote. Or maybe go to Winnipeg for symmetry on his career.
Karl Alzner—His contract is going to be bad.
Erik Johnsgard: Somebody's going to give a 4 x 4 to Michael Stone. Don't be that guy, Doug. Nobody likes that guy.
Evan Arnold: On the note of flashy Russians, I don’t want anything to do with Alexander Radulov. Also, I would be disappointed if the Sharks signed anyone over the age of 32 whose name doesn’t end in ‘Thornton’ or ‘Marleau.’ That includes Iginla, Sharp, Jagr, and Williams.
KyleDemetrius: Please Doug, do not sign Dan Girardi. Just no. Don't do it. He's a dumpster fire.
Marcus White: Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla have history against the Sharks, but are simply no longer effective, and the Sharks shouldn’t load up on old ring-chasers. Unless, of course, it’s Jaromir Jagr, but that’s mostly because I’d like to see how his mullet looks in teal.
Sierra Morley: Roman Polak. That experiment didn't work, for the love of god, don't try it again.