Joonas Donskoi to test free agency

Let’s see if the Donfather’s agent can procure him an offer he can’t refuse.

News broke yesterday that Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi is set to test the market in the unrestricted free agency interview period, which will begin following the NHL draft this weekend.

It seems as though the Donfather will at least test the waters to see what he kind of an offer he can procure without necessarily closing the door on a return to San Jose. According to Evolving Wild’s contract projections, the 27-year-old winger is slated to receive a three-year deal worth an average annual value of $2,847,521 per season.

The Sharks are still looking to re-sign key forwards such as Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, captain Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist and Joe Thornton, but are in a tight cap situation after re-signing one of the league’s best defenseman in Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million contract extension and even more so following news of the league’s salary cap likely being fixed at somewhere between $81.5-$82 million instead of the anticipated $83 million.

The ideal situation for the Sharks is to re-sign the Finnish forward in a deal where Donskoi takes a hometown discount worth somewhere between $2.5-$2.8 million. Despite a disappointing up-and-down season points-per-game-wise in 2018-19, Donskoi still held decent metrics and was still among the best players for the Sharks during the postseason. As fellow Fear the Fin writer, Erik Fowle, noted on his playoff performance in Donskoi’s 2018-19 season review:

On more than a few occasions, Donskoi looked like one of, if not the best, Sharks forward on the ice. He seemed to breathe life into a fourth line that spent the second season on life support, and he eventually regained his place back alongside Hertl and Kane on the second line, if only for a game or two. Donskoi would finish the playoffs with the Sharks’ fifth-best shot share and fourth-best expected goal share relative to his teammates at 5-on-5. Maybe most importantly, on a team that struggled to limit opponents’ scoring chances, Donskoi held onto the fifth-lowest rate of expected goals against relative to his teammates.

Details on Donskoi’s advanced metrics during the past season can be found in that analysis, but to summarize, a bounce-back year for Donskoi at this point is more likely than not.

Though Donskoi can expect to field decent offers from other teams due to an unrestricted free agency class not offering many established right wingers for decent value, the question is if those potential contract offer increases would be worth the move out of San Jose for Donskoi. For what it is worth, Donskoi is quite fond of the Bay Area and has reiterated his desire to stay, but at the same time only naturally wants to see if a team will make the money and term work.

Of course, the Sharks may not be able to retain him regardless of a willingness to take a hometown discount due to their own tenuous cap situation, but for what it is worth, they have — and somewhat unexpectedly, following his deployment during the season between moving down from the second line to the fourth or being scratched from the lineup at various times — expressed a mutual desire to have him re-sign with San Jose, as well.