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Sharks to buy out goaltender Martin Jones

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It’s a new era in San Jose.

Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks takes a break during a stop in play during overtime of a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on April 19, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Golden Knights defeated the Sharks 3-2 in a shootout. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Despite the deadline for the first buyout window closing ahead of Free Agency tomorrow, the San Jose Sharks were in no rush to buy out the remainder of goaltender Martin Jones’ contract until the last minute. The team left it to Jones’ agent to find interest in perhaps trading the goaltender — and other teams have been paying off trade partners to take on their bad contracts this off-season, if nothing else — but when nothing materialized, the Sharks committed to a change in net by placing Jones on unconditional waivers this morning.

Assuming he clears, the buyout will go through tomorrow morning and Jones will become an unrestricted free agent.

It’s a bummer of an end to what began as an extremely hopeful era in San Jose. I watched the episode of The Deep about the Martin Jones acquisition several times between 2015 and 2018, mainly because I loved that series, but also because it was a reminder of what this era was meant to look like.

The Sharks would not have made it to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final without Jones. That series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Sharks was a true battle of goaltending, and had the Sharks won, Jones may have had a Conn Smythe title under his belt.

Whether it was a lingering injury or changes to his play style or the Sharks insisting on playing him 60+ games for four seasons straight, Martin Jones — who was streaky to begin with, but with longer and higher highs — fell off a cliff. I don’t know that it could’ve been anticipated, though the six-year deal he signed in 2017 was perhaps always destined to be too long of a term for a goaltender that had only just become a starter.

Now the 31-year-old joins eight players who have been bought out in the first buyout window, ahead of Free Agency. Goaltender Braden Holtby is also being bought out by the Vancouver Canucks, who are also buying out forward Jake Virtanen. The Minnesota Wild bought out the twin contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Edmonton Oilers bought out winger James Neal, the Florida Panthers bought out defender Keith Yandle and the New York Rangers bought out defender Tony D’Angelo.

Per CapFriendly, here’s the breakdown of the buyout:

While the Sharks will be on the hook for Jones’ contract for the next six years, it also frees up a couple million dollars in cap space to help find his replacement. Adding in the savings from the Jones contract and the Sharks now have over $12 million to work with come Free Agency tomorrow.

Assuming all other pending-UFAs walk, the team still needs to re-sign goaltender Adin Hill and forwards Nick Merkley and Noah Gregor. The only other question mark would be 41-year-old Patrick Marleau and whether he intends to return next season, though I’m sure he would sign for a veteran minimum contract.