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Sharks will not qualify Donato, Merkley

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The team only retained rights to forward Noah Gregor and goaltender Adin Hill.

Ryan Donato #16 of the San Jose Sharks warms up before facing the Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center on April 6, 2021 in San Jose, California. Photo by Brandon Magnus/NHLI via Getty Images

Free Agency is approaching San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson doesn’t seem to be in a negotiating mood. Of the four pending restricted free agents on the team, just one has been issued a qualifying offer from the club.

Noah Gregor, drafted by the Sharks in the fourth round of the 2016 NHL draft, has been issued a qualifying offer. Due to not meeting the threshold of professional games, Gregor has 10.2(c) status, meaning other teams cannot offer sheet the 22-year-old forward.

Goaltender Adin Hill, acquired by the Sharks on July 17 from the Arizona Coyotes, was issued a qualifying offer by his former club, allowing the Sharks to retain his negotiating rights.

That leaves forwards Ryan Donato and Nick Merkley, who have not been issued qualifying offers and will become unrestricted free agents on Wednesday.

Donato will be an interesting player to hit the market. The Sharks paid a third-round pick to the Minnesota Wild to acquire the forward last October. In the final year of his two-year, $1.9 million contract, Donato scored 4 goals and 16 assists over 50 games. The Sharks hoped he could slot into a top-six role, but middle-six is likely his ceiling. There’s some scoring talent there, but the Sharks aren’t going to be the team investing in a 25-year-old that might be a serviceable middle-six player.

Merkley is the more surprising name, as the team just traded for his signing rights earlier today, sending defender Christian Jaros to the New Jersey Devils where he was immediately given a new contract. Doing so, versus allowing Jaros to become a free agent, allowed for New Jersey to maintain RFA rights to Jaros when his contract expires next summer.

Per Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News, the Sharks do intend to come to an agreement with Merkley, keeping the former first-round pick in San Jose.

Free agency will begin at 9 a.m. pacific on Wednesday.