Sharks post-mortem: A look at the salary cap going into next season

GM Doug Wilson will have some decisions to make going into 2020-21.

Now that we know the San Jose Sharks 2019-20 season if officially over, it’s time to look at how general manager Doug Wilson can help retool the franchise to get back to being among the NHL’s elite.

The Sharks went 29-36-5, finishing 29th overall in the league. Although San Jose got a top-flight defenseman in Erik Karlsson, the 30-year-old cost them a very good chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

With Karlsson’s $11.5 million cap hit, Wilson will have some tough decisions to make on how to build around the team’s core.

Matt Larkin of The Hockey News broke down San Jose’s 2019-20 season, and gave some insight into the team’s salary cap situation going into 2020-21:

“A flat cap of $81.5-million, a.k.a. the best-case scenario, would give San Jose about $15 million to play with. Some of that, as much as a third, must go to Labanc in what we can assume will be a make-good extension. The Sharks will have to make a call on re-signing Joe Thornton again, too ... it feels slightly less certain that he’ll wear teal again to start next season, but he’s expressed his desire to return to the team for his age-41 campaign. If San Jose retains him, there won’t be much money left to chase higher-end UFAs ... Also, would they consider buying out Jones? His contract isn’t structured in a manner to make a buyout impossible.”

Larkin brings up an interesting decision on Labanc, who had 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points last season. The 24-year-old saw his production dip from the 56 points he put up during the 2018-19 campaign. He had a tendency to take bad penalties last season as well, and ultimately lost on his one-year, $1 million deal he signed last offseason.

If Wilson wants to bring the right winger back, I think a deal in the $3.5 million range makes sense.

Another avenue Wilson can look at that Larkin mentions is buying out goalie Martin Jones. With Aaron Dell most likely leaving in free agency, the Sharks would have to bring in two new goalies next season if they want to buyout Jones. If Wilson chooses to go that route, it would save between $2.8-3.8 million over the next four seasons. The downside to that decision is that it would cost San Jose a little more than $1.6 million against the cap from 2024-25 through 2027-28, per Cap Friendly.

Wilson could get creative and try to trade defenseman Brent Burns. The 35-year-old has a cap hit of $8 million over the next five seasons. If Wilson is willing to eat a bit of Burns’s salary, he could find a take for the right-handed defenseman.

What do you think is the best way for Wilson to clear up some cap space? How much would you sign Labanc for, if the Sharks do bring him back?