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NHL Free Agency 2017: Writers break down the first weekend of free agency

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Answering some big questions after a big weekend.

Jan 31, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau (12) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose.  John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The dust from the first weekend of free agency has settled. Now that some of our writers have had a chance to sit down and reflect, we look back on the weekend that was, and try to suss out what it all means.

What one word would you use to describe the Sharks' first weekend of free agency?

East Bay Ry: Emotional. We ran the full gamut: happy, disappointed, relieved, shocked, sleepy, hungry.

Erik Johnsgard: Exhausting.

Kyle Demetrius: Conflicted.

Marcus White: Drained. In some strange offshoot of Murphy's Law, everything that could have happened did happen this past weekend. I was in a glass case of emotion all weekend.

Matt Harrington: Patience. It felt like forever once Thornton and Marleau finally made each of their decisions. As the hours passed more and more on July 1 it became harder to focus. There also hasn't really been any big new free agent signings yet for the team so hopefully we will see some in the future.

Which extension made more sense: Marc-Edouard Vlasic or Martin Jones?

East Bay Ry: Vlasic. He had a down year, by his lofty standards, last year, so it's not without risk. But there is reason to believe that the dip in his number was a function of his partner, rather than his own doing (Vlasic with Braun had a 47.9 GF% and 46.2 CF%. Not good. In 175 minutes away from Braun, Vlasic was 68.4 GF%(!) and 57.5 CF%. In 350 minutes without Vlasic, Braun was 37.5 GF% and 49.4 CF%.). Vlasic is one of the very best defensive defensemen in the league, and his game is based on positioning and reading the play, which are not skills that will deteriorate as quickly as speed or strength. Jones is a solid, league average goalie. He is fine. But giving six years at $5.75m is more term and dollars than a team should bet on all but the best goalies.

Erik Johnsgard: Vlasic, for sure. Vlasic is among the best defensive defensemen in the league, if not the best. Over the past four seasons, Vlasic is 15th in 5 on 5 shot attempted percentage among defensemen who played at least 250 games, and has the 25th lowest zone start percentage. His value to this team was thrown into stark relief in the 2014 postseason, when his injury was followed immediately by the incident. Vlasic was going to get paid commensurate to his value to the team, and the percentage of the current cap his contract takes up is less than Giordano, Hedman, Seabrook, and Letang at the time of their most recent extensions. He's earned it. As for the Jones deal, it's fine. Goalies are voodoo anyway.

Kyle Demetrius: Vlasic. He's an elite defender that is basically top pair on every team. Last year was a down year, but it seems that can be traced to injury and the World Cup compressing his schedule. He would have commanded more on the open market so in theory it could be looked at as a "discount". Jones is a career .916 SV% which is slightly above league average. Giving him that contract is banking on him continuing to improve and breach the next tier of goalies.

Marcus White: Jones. As much as I want to pull a Ron Howard* when I read arguments that Jones is an elite goalie, his contract is towards the middle of the pack among starters. Oh, and he isn't signed to an eight-year contract for the duration of his 30s. With two players now signed to such deals, the Sharks are swimming in uncharted waters under the current CBA, and banking on Burns and Vlasic to buck much of what we know about players aging.

*[Editor's Note: In this case, he's referencing narrator Ron Howard, not "replacing you on the Han Solo movie" Ron Howard.]

Matt Harrington: To me, the Jones extension made more sense. The Sharks are getting a solid, franchise goaltender at an affordable price of under $6 million a year. Jones isn't exactly an elite netminder, but, at 27, he is likely is in the prime of his career and has a chance to develop even more with the Sharks as the years go on. The Vlasic extension may be a bit risky considering he'll be 39 years old when the contract expires.

What was your reaction when the Maple Leafs signed Patrick Marleau?

Eaat Bay Ry: I know my answer to this one is going to be very different from pretty much every other Sharks fan. My grandarents lived in Toronto, and I spent a lot of time in my youth visiting the city. The first NHL game I attended was Leafs vs Nordiques at Maple Leaf Gardens. I went to University of Toronto for grad school. I've been a Sharks fan since before day 1, but I've been a Leafs fan for even longer. If Patrick Marleau had to leave the Sharks, I'm happy that he's joining the Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club.

That said, I think this is a move that works for all parties involved. The Sharks will now have to give more time and responsibility to younger players like Meier and Labanc. They need to get younger, and they need to know if their younger players will be able to shoulder more of the load. The Leafs are getting an experienced, veteran player, who has two Gold Medals, a President's Trophy, and a Campbell Bowl to his name. He will be 38 when the season starts, but Marleau has only missed 31 games in his career, scored 27 goals last year, and can still skate. He will be a useful player and leader on a young and talented team. It works for Marleau because he gets to play on said young and exciting team. He is going to get more money that the Sharks would have and should have been able to offer him, which is a function of the relative age of the rosters of both clubs. Reports are that the Sharks offered $10m over 2 years, while the Leafs offered $18.75m over 3 years. This is likely the last contract that he will sign in the NHL, and $8.75m is a lot of money, especially when he's only going to wind up playing 2 years with the Leafs, anyway. The structure of his contract means that Marleau will receive $17.5m by July 2, 2019. At that point he can agree to a trade to a trying to reach the floor and retire. Or he can go to Robidas Island with Lupul, Horton, and friends. Either way, the over/under for number of games he plays for the Leafs in the '19-'20 season is .5. The Leafs are one of the few teams who can work this sort of deal.

As something of an aside, some will say that Marleau will get trashed by the Toronto media. I have a few thoughts on this. 1) I don't know how likely this is. The Toronto media has torn down Leafs players in the past, for sure. (Google "Simmons Kessel hotdogs" if you don't believe me.) But they always go after core guys: Kessel, Phaneuf, Sundin, Kaberle, etc. Marleau won't be part of the core, and he's a good Canadian boy who's won two Gold Medals representing his country, so I think he gets a pass here. 2) He's been called out for years by the national media and his own team, and has been able to shrug off being called gutless on national TV by a former teammate and having the captaincy stripped from him. If anybody is ready to ignore the Toronto media, it's Patty. 3) If he does find himself the target of the Toronto media, isn't it a great example of leadership for him to take those shots and deflect criticism from younger players like Matthews, Marner, Nylander, or Rielly?

Erik Johnsgard: Remember that scene in season one of Lost where [Editor's Note: Turn away if, you don't want the show spoiled, he wrote in 2007] Locke drugs Boone so that he hallucinates his sister, Shannon, being eaten by a magic dinosaur? When Locke tells Boone that Shannon is alive, and asks him how watching her die made him feel, Boone says, "Relieved. I felt relieved." Boone had been emotionally attached to Shannon for so long, that he had been neglecting both of their individual needs. Without their codependency, Boone was able to fulfill his purpose on the island, helping Locke open the hatch while making room for younger, unproven wingers; and Shannon was able to find love and pursue a more lucrative contract in her home country. The metaphor is good, and I'll brook no argument to the contrary.

Kyle Demetrius: Gutted. Just super gutted. Lou Lamiorello dangled this insane contract in front of his face and he couldn't resist. Patrick Marleau is my second favourite Shark ever, and I've watched him play from 8 years old to 28. To have him suit up for the Leafs is going to be super weird. Toronto media is about to eat up the greatest Shark because he tapes his stick counterclockwise or some other banal thing. I still can't believe Marleau will be in a different uniform.

Marcus White: Once again, I was right in my analysis.

Jokes aside, it was a strange, simultaneous feeling of perfect understanding and immense confusion. As I wrote earlier this week, it made all the sense in the world, but somehow made no sense at all. Given that contract, I think both sides were right to walk away from one another. That doesn't make seeing Marleau leave any less painful, though.

Matt Harrington: I was definitely disappointed when I saw the news, but I knew it was going to happen someday. Marleau was always one of my favorite Sharks growing up and it is going to be hard to realize he's no longer with the team. I think he'll have a great few seasons with Toronto's young core and I wish him the best of luck.

What was your reaction when the Sharks re-signed Joe Thornton?

East Bay Ry: Relieved. That it had been announced a day earlier but not signed really bugged me. Now that I know they had different offers for him based on what Marleau did, it makes perfect sense. The cap hit doesn't matter. It's for one year and the Sharks have plenty of room to resign their RFAs. I'm glad that Jumbo is back, and relieved that the Sharks didn't commit any term to a 38 year-old who just tore his ACL & MCL.

Erik Johnsgard: For a one-year deal, I'm okay with giving Thornton the moon if that's his ask. The no trade clause means Thornton is driving the bus on any potential trades at the deadline. This seems to check all the boxes of keeping Joe happy: he stays near his family, his window to go cup-chasing in April is open, and he and Brent Burns can still take strange, naked pictures for magazines.

Kyle Demetrius: Relieved. As much as hockey is a business, it would have been completely deflating to have both franchise players leave on the same weekend. I think one year for Thornton is great to see what he has after his knee injury. If he plays well, we could be going through the same thing next year where allegedly 17 teams called him. I'm glad he's still here, I'm not ready to let go.

Marcus White: I felt an odd mix of happiness and impending dread. On one hand, I'm glad to see Thornton come back and I think this sets a good precedent for the Sharks to keep bringing him back one year deals as his body and performance allow. On the other, I worry that the team is simply kicking the can down the road, and has no plan to internally or externally replace him.

But those are worries for another time, and I'm happy Sharks fans will get at least another year of Jumbo Joe in teal.

Matt Harrington: I was thrilled. Thornton has meant so much to the Sharks organization since he's arrived and I couldn't imagine him anywhere else. At 8 million, there is definitely a price to pay, but at only 1 year there's a very low risk. Hopefully he has a solid season like 2 years ago.

What's San Jose's best bet to replace and/or surpass Marleau's production from last year?

East Bay Ry: Meier. He generated shots at an elite level last season, but the finish wasn't there. I fully expect him to have a much better shooting percentage than the 3.75% that he registered in his rookie season. If he replaces Marleau on the top power play unit, Timo should score at a good clip.

Erik Johnsgard: Relying on Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen, a hopefully resurgent Mikkel Boedker, et cetera to replace Marleau's 27 goals seems risky. If the Sharks waded into the free agent market and took on a low risk veteran to chip in 15 or so of those goals, it would go a long way towards keeping the ship afloat. I've been championing the Jussi Jokinen cause, but this could give us all a very convenient excuse to invest in Jagr jerseys. You know you want to.

Kyle Demetrius: From a production standpoint, San Jose is probably going to say the kids will step up. However the system is not stocked with top end talent. Lots of middle pieces and role players but basically it's just Meier who has the top 6 pedigree. So hopefully he takes a big step forward this year. Now that basically everyone is signed except Tierney, the Sharks have a shade over 8.5 million in room. The trade market and offer sheet market are now the Sharks to browse through. I think they should aggressively go after a young, high end player to move into a new era of Sharks hockey.

Marcus White: In order to replace Marleau’s production, the Sharks will need (at least) three of the following things to happen: Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc’s emergence as consistent, reliable scorers, Joonas Donskoi’s return to form after an injury-plagued second NHL season, Joel Ward fighting off father time, Chris Tierney’s growth into a 30-40 point player, and Mikkel Boedker finding his feet after a rough first season in teal.

In order to surpass it, the Sharks will likely need to look outside of the organization for help. That could mean taking a chance on a bargain player in free agency, a la Jussi Jokinen, Jaromir Jagr, and Thomas Vanek, or acquiring a player via trade, such as Alex Galchenyuk or Matt Duchene. The former would be cheaper than the latter, but landing a player via trade would be a better bet.

There’s still a lot of time left this offseason, but I’d venture that the former is far more likely, even though General Manager Doug Wilson isn’t exactly averse to pulling off a big trade.

Matt Harrington: They will need some of the younger guys to step up (Labanc, Tierney, etc). With the free agent group being so small this year, San Jose has to be able to develop these players into ones who can contribute. There can't be such a gap between the top 5 players and the rest of the team. If they can successfully execute this, then I think it'll be a successful season.

Joe Thornton signed on top of a lawnmower. What's your ideal spot to sign a big contract extension?

East Bay Ry: To quote Rainier Wolfcastle "On top of a pile of money, with many beautiful ladies."

Erik Johnsgard: Atop Joe Thornton's lawnmower. Then we could be friends.

Kyle Demetrius: On a yacht in the Mediterranean.

Marcus White: On the ice, moments before training camp starts. The deal would have been agreed to long before then, but I'd want a Dean Portman in D3: The Mighty Ducks moment. I'll be happy if five people get the reference.

Matt Harrington: I absolutely loved that Thornton signed on top of a lawnmower. If I was signing that contract, I'd sign it with my family and friends nearby and keep it professional.