As the NHL season is now less than a month away, we continue our look at each team’s offseason and preview the upcoming year. Today, we focus on the San Jose Sharks.
Last Season: 46-30-6 record (98 points), 3rd in the Pacific Division. Defeated Los Angeles 4-1 in Round 1. Defeated Nashville 4-3 in Round 2. Defeated St. Louis 4-2 in Round 3. Lost to Pittsburgh 4-2 in the Stanley Cup Final.
Remaining Cap Space: $378K as per Cap Friendly
Key Departures: D Roman Polak (free agency, Toronto), G James Reimer (free agency, Florida), C Nick Spaling (free agency, Geneve-Servette, NLA), D Matt Tennyson (free agency, Carolina), C Dainius Zubrus (free agency, unsigned)
[Related: Sharks Depth Chart from Roster Resource]
Player to Watch: C Logan Couture – 2015-16 was a tale of two seasons for Couture. He missed a big chunk of the season due a fractured fibula while also missing time due to an arterial leg bleed. When he was in the lineup, he didn’t produce close to the level that the Sharks expected from one of their top players; he posted his lowest points per game average since his rookie season.
Then the playoffs came around and the proverbial switch was flicked. He became arguably San Jose’s most dangerous player in the postseason, leading the entire league in assists (20) and points (30 – six ahead of the second highest point getter, teammate Brent Burns). That strong performance helped earn him a spot on Team Canada’s roster for the World Cup of Hockey.
Which Couture will the Sharks get this season? Their team is already strong in terms of their forward and scoring depth but they showed how dangerous they can be when Couture finds that extra gear and becomes a legitimate top line player. If he can even come close to his postseason play, he can give them another dimension offensively.
Key Storyline: In recent years, teams have acted quickly to try to avoid having their top players head into a season with free agency looming over their heads. That’s not exactly the case with San Jose who have three top players all entering their walk years – forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as well as defenseman Brent Burns.
Some believe the team may look to move on from Thornton and Marleau in an effort to get younger and save some money but at some point during the season, the question of whether or not the team should either sign them or trade them to avoid losing them for nothing is sure to come up.
Burns is a different case. He projects to be the top defenseman (and arguably the top player) on the market and San Jose undoubtedly will want to lock him up. Will they push to get something done early; are they comfortable negotiating in-season? How much would it cost? Or, are they prepared to let him go to the market next July? We saw the fanfare surrounding Steven Stamkos last season as he played out the last year of his deal. While Burns won’t generate quite that much hype, his contract status is going to be a looming question and story to follow throughout the season.