Jacob MacDonald 2023 player review: San Jose's Swiss Army knife
Jacob MacDonald stepped in when he was needed for the Sharks, but with young players moving up, it's questionable whether he'll be a factor on the team moving forward.
When the Sharks traded for Jacob MacDonald in January, it seemed like he was an afterthought in a trade that centered around Matt Nieto, Ryan Merkley and Martin Kaut. Then-Sharks' prospect Merkley wanted a change of scenery. It seemed easy to swap him with then-Colorado Avalanche prospect Kaut, who was looking for a fresh start as well. MacDonald looked like he was a throw-in to even things out.
He arrived in San Jose and was immediately added to the lineup. Much of this was out of necessity. The Sharks needed defensemen. Nikolai Knyzhov was hurt. So was Radim Simek. A few days after trading for MacDonald, Sharks' General Manager Mike Grier traded Jaycob Megna to the Seattle Kraken.
There was space for MacDonald in the lineup.
MacDonald's 2022-23 production
MacDonald's season consisted of 58 games, but they were split between the Sharks and the Avalanche. MacDonald played 33 games with the Avs and 25 with the Sharks.
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His offensive numbers were not impressive. MacDonald had just eight points in 58 games.
That said, he did the job he was hired to do. He played defense.
Take, for instance, MacDonald's Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) – the stat that evaluates a player's performance while taking into account things such as zone starts, competition and other factors outside of the player's control.
In the Evolving-Hockey chart above, you can see that while not an offensive play driver, MacDonald is passable as a defenseman. His team is more likely to score with him on the ice than to get scored on.
His numbers won't knock you over, but they are reliable.
MacDonald is a utility player
It's that reliability that Sharks' Head Coach David Quinn loved. Quinn knew what he was getting from MacDonald. The defenseman played on both the left and right side on defense as well as up and down the lineup.
As the forward group took a hit toward the end of the season, instead of bringing a younger player up from the Barracuda, Head Coach David Quinn relied on MacDonald to play forward.
MacDonald's ability to move throughout the lineup made him an asset late this season, especially after the trade deadline. Towards the end, the team was depleted with players either traded away or dealing with injuries. MacDonald was able to slot in wherever he was needed reliably.
Rating MacDonald's season
In that sense, MacDonald's season with the Sharks was a success. Nothing was expected of him, so it was a low bar to meet.
MacDonald did not discernably hurt a team that was already toward the bottom of the league; he simply maintained the status quo.
MacDonald's future with the Sharks
This season it was fine, but the Sharks are not striving for the status quo next season.
MacDonald is signed through the end of next season, and according to CapFriendly, MacDonald's cap hit is $762,500.
At 30 years old, the defenseman has hit his peak. There's not much more he's going to offer a team. What you see is what you get. MacDonald will be a solid player you can rely on in a pinch but not a player that will move the needle for a contending team. That's why it was so easy for the Avalanche to trade him this season.
It's hard to envision the Sharks trading MacDonald in the offseason because I don't see a market for him. There's no reason to buy him out because his contract is perfect for a team in cap trouble like the Sharks. It's short and it doesn't have a big dollar sign attached to it.
That means MacDonald is in teal next season, but don't pencil him into the lineup. He might serve the team well in the seventh defenseman slot or be a reliable backup if top players get hurt.
What's more, if San Jose finds itself with one too many defensemen at the NHL level, sending MacDonald down to the Barracuda should be fairly simple. It's hard to see another team deciding to snag MacDonald off the waiver wire unless that team is in injury trouble. If MacDonald does get picked up off the waiver wire, it won't be a huge loss for the Sharks.
Editor's Note: Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out the player reviews for the San Jose Sharks. We realize there were a lot of guys rotating into and out of the lineup and some of the key depth players were traded. As a result, Fear the Fin plans to focus on the players that are 1) still with the Sharks and 2) played 20 or more games for San Jose this season.