Armchair GM: Building the Sharks’ roster with available cap space
A glimpse at the Sharks’ cap situation after the Erik Karlsson signing, Justin Braun trade.
Let me preface this by saying this is 100 percent my opinion and no reflection of what the entire Fear the Fin staff thinks. We always debate among ourselves what General Manager Doug Wilson should or should not do and really that’s what this article is all about: a place for some healthy debate about what comes next for the San Jose Sharks.
News broke on Monday that the Sharks had signed elite defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension. The deal comes with a full no movement clause and a cap hit of $11.5 million annually through the 2026-27 season.
The cap this year is expected to be below $83 million, but for the sake of argument, we’ll call it $83 million until anything is announced. Now that Karlsson is signed, half the cap space ($41.5 million) is tied up in five players next season according to CapFriendly.
Brent Burns and Logan Couture come in at $8 million apiece, and Evander Kane and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are at $7 million apiece.
The Karlsson signing also had immediate repercussions. Less than 24 hours later, General Manager Doug Wilson traded defenseman Justin Braun and his $3.8 million dollar cap hit to the Philadelphia Flyers for a pair of draft picks.
The moves clears some caps space, but it still leaves a lot of Sharks fans wondering how the rest of the roster is going to fill out and if they have enough money to keep the boys together for another run.
Who’s already on the books?
The Sharks have the following players signed for next season.
Logan Couture - $8,000,000
Evander Kane - $7,000,000
Tomas Hertl - $5,625,000
Melker Karlsson - $2,000,000
Marcus Sorensen - $1,500,000
Barclay Goodrow - $925,000
Lukas Radil - $700,000
Erik Karlsson - $11,500,000
Brent Burns - $8,000,000
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - $7,000,000
Brenden Dillon - $3,270,000
Jacob Middleton - $735,000
Radim Simek - $675,000
Martin Jones - $5,750,000
Aaron Dell - $1,900,000
That’s 15 players for a total cap hit of $64,580,000. You also need to factor in the final year of the Paul Martin buyout, which adds another $1,416,667 to the Sharks’ salaries on the books.
Before any new signings or trades, the total cap space General Manager Doug Wilson has to work with is approximately $16,342,583.
I made this its own section because Jumbo is a player in his own special category. Thornton has said he only wants to play in San Jose. If Thornton is willing, San Jose will most definitely take him back.
Neither side is worried about a contract because he’ll agree to whatever price it takes to make another run at the Stanley Cup happen. With that in mind and looking at the cap space left to the Sharks, I would like to dream that Thornton takes just $1,000,000 for the season if he returns.
Who doesn’t have a contract?
Here’s a look at the guys who played on the Sharks last season and don’t have a contract for 2019-20, in order (somewhat) of importance to the team.
Captain Joe Pavelski
This is possibly the biggest problem facing Wilson in the off-season. Pavelski signed a very team friendly deal in 2014, agreeing to five years at $6 million per year.
He’s 34-years-old and coming off a great season where he scored 64 points (38 goals, 26 assists) in 75 games. Plus, he showed up in the playoffs, despite taking a puck off of his jaw and suffering at least one, probably two concussions.
This is Pavelski’s time to make some major money. He’s worth a $7.5 million a year and someone (probably not the Sharks) will be willing to pay it.
Pavelski is just under the age 35 cut off, which means teams will be willing to offer him a big contract without worrying about the 35-and-over stipulation in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It’s tough to see the captain taking a hometown discount big enough to keep him in teal next season. That said, I’ve learned over the years that if Wilson wants to make it happen, he’ll make it happen.
If I’m GM, I’d cry myself to sleep at night knowing I let Joe Pavelski walk away.
In his second full season with the Sharks, Meier did exactly what the team was hoping he would do, growing by leaps and bounds. The 22-year-old scored 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in his sophomore season and showed glimpses of being the kind of power forward every team covets.
Meier is a Restricted Free Agent, but the Sharks need to sign him quick. I can see some crafty GM talking to Meier on June 23 and then sending him an offer sheet on July 1, when free agency opens. If that happens, Wilson may end up signing Meier for more than he wants or worse, letting Meier walk.
It’s important that Wilson get a deal done now.
Evolving Wild projects that Meier’s contract should be in the five-year, $5.89 million range. It’s hard to argue with those numbers; they’re along the same lines as the contract Tomas Hertl signed in 2018. But to keep Meier closer to Hertl, I’ll go five years at $5.75 million.
I re-sign Meier. Now I have 17 roster players and $9,792,583 of cap space.
Kevin Labanc has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career and I think it’s something Sharks need to keep around for a few more seasons. His three assists and one goal night during the Sharks’ five-minute power play of Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights is the perfect proof of what he can bring to a team.
Labanc is an important piece to the Sharks, especially if the team wants to continue to be a contender. According to Evolving Wild, he should be getting a three-year, $3.714 million contract, but I imagine Labanc would be willing to go a little lower to stick with the Sharks for a few more seasons. So I’ll say three years, $3.25 million for the chance to play with Joe Thornton for another year and the opportunity to win a Cup.
18 roster players and $6,542,583 of cap space.
Tim Heed/Joakim Ryan
With the Braun trade, the Sharks are in need of another right-handed defenseman. Heed’s the only one left, unless you plan to bring up Ryan Merkley or Jacob Middleton, both of whom probably aren’t ready yet.
Your other option is to re-sign Joakim Ryan and make him play on his off-side alongside Brenden Dillon on the third pairing.
Either option is okay for the Sharks because both are going to cost about the same. One or both of them will get a short term deal.
I’m going to choose Ryan and make him a two-year, $1.1 million per year offer. Middleton, who is already counting against my cap hit above, will be my seventh defenseman.
19 roster players. $5,442,583 of cap space.
I would love to see Nyquist back in teal, but the team just can’t afford him and if I’m putting cap space toward someone, I’m picking Pavelski over Nyquist every day of the week.
If you’re wondering, Evolving Wild projects Nyquist’s cap hit at six years, $5.75 million and that’s something the Sharks just can’t afford.
Donskoi floundered in the final stretch of the season and in the post-season. He was up in the press box and it’s obvious that Head Coach Pete DeBoer wasn’t happy with Donskoi’s play. However, as my colleague Erik Fowle pointed out in his season review of Donskoi, the 27-year-old is the perfect moneyball contract, offering way more value for his cap hit.
Evolving Wild says his next contract would be in the three-year, $2.85 million range. It’s a good deal, and I’m short on right wingers at the moment, so I’ll bring Donskoi back at that price with the option to trade him down the line if I need a different piece.
20 roster players. $2,592,583 in cap space.
Dylan Gambrell/Antti Suomela
I’ve got a lot of cap space locked up with my top guys so I’m filling out my bottom six with guys I think could use a little more time to develop, but may be able to perform at the NHL level.
Gambrell and Suomela both fit the bill.
I get Gambrell for one year, $800,000 and Suomela for two years at $980,000. Evolving Wild seems to think these are both fair contracts and I can’t argue with it.
22 roster players. $812,583 in cap space.
I’m sorry Haley, but I cannot allow you to be an option for DeBoer for another season. You’ll have to find a contract elsewhere.
Dell is signed through next season, but if I’m looking to add a piece either at the deadline or just clear some cap space, then Dell is the first guy that I look at. It’s possible the Sharks will need to make a little room in February. I would move Dell to make that room and save about $1 million in cap space.
So given what I wrote above, here’s how things shake out.
Kane — Couture — Meier
Labanc — Hertl — Donskoi
Sorenson — Thornton — Suomela
Radil — Goodrow/Gambrell — Melker Karlsson
Vlasic — Erik Karlsson
Simek — Burns
Dillon — Ryan
Okay, that’s my two cents. Feel free to add your own below, just be kind when you do it.