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Fear the Q&A: Answers in August

Firing up the old Twitter machine to answer your questions.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

It’s August, and there’s not a lot going on. So on Thursday, I solicited questions on Twitter for a little offseason Q&A. Here are my answers to your pressing offseason questions.

Listeners to any of the podcasts Jake and I did know I’m a firm believer that the Sharks should go all-in on trying to sign John Tavares. The Sharks were reportedly heavily involved in the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes last summer, and General Manager Doug Wilson’s shown a willingness to acquire top-end players, usually via trade.

I’m not sure that signing Tavares is the only way for San Jose to keep its Stanley Cup window open, but signing a free agent is the easiest way to do so without giving up pieces or prospects in a trade. I tend to think Wilson will explore that route before free agency, but if Tavares is an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Sharks should do everything in their power to sign him.

I don’t think Wilson is underwhelmed by this offseason, and if he is, he’s not going to say that. In an interview with Dan Rusanowsky earlier this offseason, Wilson seemed pretty happy with the way the offseason played out, and confident in San Jose’s young players to drive the team’s improvement next season.

The Sharks will also need some of its older players to improve their production. Speaking of which...

I’m not confident in Hertl ability to do that individually, so I’m going with the improvement-by-committee approach. All four players Stevie mentioned, as well as Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward, will need to produce more than they did last season.

Don’t underestimate the need for Couture and Pavelski to continue to produce, either. Couture scored 25 goals for the second time in three seasons last year, but Pavelski failed to score 30 goals in an 82-game season for the first time since 2011. He’s 33 now, so his decline may be beginning, but San Jose can’t afford much more of a drop-off from the captain next season given what they lost this offseason.

I think Carpenter, Meier, Sorensen, and Tierney will make the team out of camp, with Labanc starting the season in the AHL. Cap Friendly currently lists 11 forwards under contract at the NHL level, including Sorensen and Tierney. So, I think Meier secures a spot in the lineup, Carpenter stays up as the 13th forward, and Labanc starts the season in the AHL.

I would swap Sorensen and Labanc if I was behind the bench, but Peter DeBoer clearly trusts Sorensen, who played in all six postseason games, and I think the Swede edges out Labanc on the opening night roster. I do think Labanc will stick with the team by the end of the season, however. In terms of production, I’d go Meier, Labanc, Tierney, Sorensen, and Carpenter.

There’s definitely a chance. As solid as Dylan DeMelo’s been, he doesn’t have the track record of offensive production that Tim Heed does. In terms of a like-for-like replacement for David Schlemko on the second unit power play, Heed’s probably as close as it gets. However, DeMelo’s gotten plenty of power play time when he’s been up with the Sharks, and I think DeBoer views Vlasic as that unit’s “quarterback” anyway.

I would guess that both make the team out of training camp, if only because each player would have to be exposed to waivers to get sent down to the Barracuda. Joakim Ryan, who’s also in the mix, is still waivers-exempt, and I’d imagine the Sharks will use that to their advantage.

For years, Patrick Marleau skating out last was as much of a certainty during pregame introductions as hearing “Seek and Destroy” and seeing the Shark head lowered. Marleau’s a Maple Leaf now, and this will probably be the starkest reminder of that fact on opening night.

Joe Thornton’s typically the first skater out, behind the night’s starting goaltender. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, and Joe Pavelski are typically up front, too. If I had to venture a guess, though, I’d say one of Couture, Pavelski, or Marc-Edouard Vlasic picks up the rear from now on. They’re the next longest-tenured Sharks after Thornton, after all.

As an aside, Marleau’s totally getting the P.K. Subban treatment in warm-ups in his first game back in San Jose, right?

Any pressing questions you want answered? Share yours in the comments below!