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#HotSharksTakes: Housing, not hockey, make Sharks free agent signings impossible

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Let’s make a mountain out of a molehill.

2015 Beanpot Tournament - Consolation Game Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Inspired by Andrew Sharp’s excellent #HotSportsTakes series at Grantland (R.I.P.), we will occasionally attempt to write the worst Sharks column on the internet. This is satire (or an attempt, at least), and should not be taken seriously.

Today, we make a mountain out of the molehill that was Alex Kerfoot signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

If you hear the newest member of the Colorado Avalanche tell it, former Harvard captain Alex Kerfoot chose to begin his NHL career in Denver because of one thing: a chance.

“The first thing I was looking at was opportunity,” Kerfoot told TSN Radio 1040 in Vancouver, as transcribed by Mile High Hockey. “I’m a 23-year-old guy now coming out of four years in college. I know I have a lot of work to do as a player, but I want to go somewhere where I think that I have an opportunity to play. That kind of narrowed my list down from the start.”

With that opportunity, Kerfoot became the latest college graduate to spurn the appeals of the Bay Area and New York City, as the Sharks, Rangers, and Islanders were among the finalists. Instead, he chose to head for the scenic views of the Rocky Mountains.

Plenty of folks his age are doing the same.

The real estate site Zillow analyzed census data and found that 18-to-34-year-olds made up 35% of the city’s population growth from 2010 to 2014, according to a story published last year in The New York Times. Denver area research firm Development Research partners found that just over one-third of the 1,600,000 jobs in metropolitan Denver were held by 19-to-34-year-olds, the same story said. U.S. News and World Report even pegs Denver as the second-best place to live among the country’s 100 most populous cities.

San Jose is third on that same list.

It won’t be for long.

A March poll by the Bay Area Council found that 40% of Bay Area residents want to move away in the next few years, and that 46% of millennials want to do the same. 55% of respondents were worried about the cost of living, and 39% of respondents said housing was a big concern.

Did I mention that Silicon Valley has six of the top ten most expensive cities in the country, according to Coldwell Banker’s Home Listing Report?

No wonder the Sharks can’t sign any marquee free agents.

Sure, Doug Wilson dove headfirst into the deep end of the free agency pool in the summers of 2015 and 2016, signing Joel Ward, Paul Martin, Mikkel Boedker, and David Schlemko to deals of at least three years. Ward, Martin, and Boedker will have roles to play this season, but are any of them a true difference maker?

Yes, the Sharks signed Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Martin Jones to long extensions within the past nine months. But they were already here, fully aware of the area’s challenges.

A player like Kerfoot was not.

If he had an opportunity to play in the NHL right away with the Sharks, Kerfoot would have signed on the dotted line. But signing with San Jose likely meant significant time with the Barracuda, and his entry-level contract pays out $70,000 while he’s in the minor leagues.

Paying a third of your salary in rent for a chance to play in the AHL doesn’t exactly prompt someone to ask, “where do I sign?”

San Jose won’t have to worry about minor league salary with 2018’s free agent crown jewel in John Tavares. But, if you’re Tavares, why would you swap one extremely expensive housing market in New York for another in San Jose?

Why would any free agent sign up for that, when there are bound to be teams in much cheaper places to live wanting them?

The Bay Area’s rapidly rising housing costs will all but ensure the Sharks are on the sidelines of the annual free agent frenzy. Hip, lower-cost hotspots in Denver, Raleigh, and Columbus will make the Avalanche, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets constant contenders. Housing, not hockey, will make it impossible for the Sharks to sign marquee free agents.

Alex Kerfoot wasn’t the first to spurn the Sharks and the Bay Area for more affordable real estate, this time in Denver.

He won’t be the last either.