This offseason could be one of change for San Jose. Two long-term veteran forwards in Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are both eligible for unrestricted free agency and if both walk, there are going to be some holes to fill offensively.
On the flip side, the Sharks have strong defensive depth not to mention a lot of money tied into their back end; they have nearly $27MM committed to their top seven for next season. (That amount is expected to jump considerably for 2018-19 as well assuming the team can get a deal done with Marc-Edouard Vlasic.)
Accordingly, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz anticipates that GM Doug Wilson will deal from his blueline to try to add some offensive help and brings up Justin Braun as a player who could be dealt. Braun has been paired up with Vlasic in a shut-down role in the past and fared well while he has a decent cap hit of $3.8MM for three more seasons that will likely intrigue some teams.
The Sharks do have some depth on the back end with players like Mirco Mueller, Tim Heed, and the recently-signed Radim Simek waiting in the wings so if they do trade from their position of strength, it shouldn’t force them to spend big in free agency to replace whoever gets moved.
Other notes from the Western Conference:
- Stars GM Jim Nill noted to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News that he has yet to decide who will back up recently-acquired Ben Bishop next season. The team has two pricey veterans in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi who each have one year remaining on their contracts. If they aren’t able to find a taker for one via trade or expansion in the coming weeks, a buyout is a likely outcome. Lehtonen has had the better numbers of the two so despite the fact he has the higher cap hit of the two ($5.9MM versus $4.5MM for Niemi), the early expectation is that he’ll stick around while Niemi will be let go.
- Chicago Wolves head coach Craig Berube is the top candidate for the lead assistant coaching job with the Blues, reports Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The fit is a logical one given that the Wolves will no longer the primary AHL affiliate for them starting next season. However, he is in the running for the head coaching job with Buffalo. Rutherford notes that former Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien is also a candidate for the role but they don’t appear to be interested in former Buffalo bench boss Dan Bylsma.