Patrick Marleau is gone and Joe Thornton is back for one more season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones will be in the fold for the foreseeable future. After maybe the busiest offseason weekend in San Jose Sharks history, and four of their biggest questions entering free agency are now answered. Now, a new question needs answering: what comes next?
San Jose currently has $10,144,150 in salary cap space, according to Cap Friendly. That approximation includes nine skaters, six defensemen, and two goaltenders, none of whom played for the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda during the Calder Cup playoffs. Assuming forwards Timo Meier ($894,167 cap hit) and Kevin Labanc ($717,500) begin the season in the NHL, and that Joakim Ryan or Tim Heed ($650,000 for both) make the team as the seventh defensemen, San Jose will have $7,882,833 in salary cap space.
That’s plenty for the Sharks to re-sign their trio of unsigned restricted free agents: center Chris Tierney, as well as wingers Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow. Tierney’s a lock for the roster, and I’d venture Sorensen is close to one, too. He will at least be in the mix for a spot this fall. Sorensen only played 19 regular season games, but clearly emerged as a Peter DeBoer favorite down the stretch as he suited up for each of the Sharks’ six playoff games. Conversely, DeBoer scratched Meier ahead of San Jose’s season-ending Game 6 loss in a first round series against the Edmonton Oilers, and Labanc didn’t suit up for a single postseason game with the Sharks. Goodrow will probably get a look in camp, but I’d expect him to start the season with the Barracuda.
The Sharks will still have space when those players re-sign, but it’s an open question how they’ll use it, if at all. An already-thin free agent class is much thinner after the first weekend. There are some still some intriguing options that may be worth taking a flyer on, such as Jussi Jokinen, Thomas Vanek, or Jaromir Jagr, but each player presents some kind of risk.
The trade market isn’t much better. Teams have failed to meet the Colorado Avalanche’s reported asking price for Matt Duchene, and he may now start the season in Denver. Alex Galchenyuk also appears to be staying in Montreal, but the Sharks may not be able to match the Canadiens’ reported asking price if he isn’t. The Sharks were reportedly interested in Kovalchuk as of a month ago, but it’s not known if he has any interest in reuniting with DeBoer, his former coach in New Jersey. Kovalchuk and Galchenyuk will need new contracts, too, and it’s worth questioning whether the Sharks should give up assets in trades as the Jones and Vlasic extensions come on the books after this season.
But if the Sharks hope to contend this season, they’ll need to do something. As I wrote yesterday about Marleau’s departure, getting bounce-back seasons from aging veterans and seeing real development from young players from Labanc and Meier probably isn’t enough to expect the Sharks to be as good as they were last season, when that wasn’t good enough to get out of the first round. Excluding the unsigned restricted free agents, and including Labanc, Meier, and Ryan, San Jose’s current depth chart doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
The good news is that there is still plenty of time to improve the roster before training camps begin in September, let alone the trade deadline. But as things currently stand, the Sharks seem destined to experience some growing pains as they rely on younger players in the season ahead.