2021 NHL Free Agency kicked off with over a 100 signings according to CapFriendly. The free agency period will continue through the rest of the summer, and there are still a lot of unrestricted free agents available — 373, to be exact.
The San Jose Sharks made a few deals for veteran players in James Reimer, Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano, as well as a few smaller signings, for a busy-ish first day. The moves helped address the areas of concern by adding a veteran goaltender and some depth forwards. The Sharks still have a bit over $5 million in cap space and a few more roster holes to fill.
So let’s take a look at the top five free agents left after Day 1.
One of the areas that the Sharks have not touched yet this off-season has been the defense. However, with players like Erik Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns under contract through the next several years, it can be an afterthought. But adding another solid defenseman can’t hurt them, especially if Radim Simek remains questionable. Ryan Murray is not a super flashy option, but it could help add to the third defense pair.
He is also a defender who can eat up a lot of minutes and allow some of the top guys to rest a little more. He averaged 18:37 minutes last season with the New Jersey Devils and has averaged north of 18 minutes every year of this career with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Devils. One downside of Murray is he has missed a lot of games with injuries over the course of his career.
Adding more forward depth to the bottom-six, Brandon Saad could add a little bit of a scoring touch. At 28 years old, he’s far from gone, though he is not going to be scoring 50 points like he has in past seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will still be able to help being another veteran on the third or fourth line. With his NHL experience, Saad might also be able to play in the top-six if they are switching up the lines, or if players are injured.
As a way to add more center depth David Krejci is a good option. He is coming to a large contract with the Boston Bruins and this is a bit of an unknown option for the Sharks.
He is still a good forward and could add some veteran center depth to join Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture. Krejci would add to the scoring and play-making, as he had eight goals and 36 assists (44 points) in the shortened 2021 season.
This is a long-shot option, as the contract that 35-year-old Krejci would ask for would be higher than what the Sharks have left in cap space. Analysts at Evolving-Hockey project his next contract to be two years at $4.688 million.
Sami Vatanen has bounced around to a few teams over the past few seasons, but is another option to be a bottom-pairing defenseman. There is a bit of a risk for the Sharks, as he hasn’t played a full 82-game NHL season ever in his career, and the 30-year-old has been an NHL mainstay since 2013.
Vatanen could be a cheaper option to add a depth defenseman, as his play has decreased over the years. Playing with two teams last year, the New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars, he averaged 17:14 and 16:17 minutes, respectively.
A surprising name to be available after the first day is Slovakian winger Tomas Tatar. The 30-year-old was passed between the Detroit Red Wings, Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens between 2018-19 and would instantly upgrade the Sharks’ middle-six, if not top-six.
Tatar saw a slightly down year in the shortened season, with 10 goals and 20 assists, for 30 points in 50 games. That would have ranked fifth on last year’s Sharks.
Several teams have interest in the winger, including the Seattle Kraken, so he’s taking his time. Evolving-Hockey project his next contract to come in around three-years at $5.236 million.
The signings will slow down over the next few days, but some underrated signings could happen over the next few days. It will be interesting to see what other pieces Doug Wilson and the Sharks add, in hopes of making it back to the playoffs.