It’s hard to make an argument for any other team in the NHL as having a less exciting start to the 2017 off-season than the San Jose Sharks. Yes, the Sharks are just a year removed from a Stanley Cup appearance and have re-signed Norris Trophy-winner Brent Burns as well as Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Thornton, and Martin Jones since then. You can get excited about new deals for Ryan Carpenter and Tim Heed last month too if you like. Yet, other than re-signing their own players, what have the Sharks added to their 2017-18 squad?
We know what they’ve lost. Patrick Marleau, a career-Shark and the franchise leader in goals (power play, short-handed, and even strength), points, and games played, is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. David Schlemko, a 2016 free agency addition, was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft and then flipped to the Montreal Canadiens. Micheal Haley (Florida Panthers) and Buddy Robinson (Winnipeg Jets) are also gone.
The only additions for San Jose thus far, as they look to plug the holes formed by lost free agents as well as improve upon their 2016-17 performance: left wing Brandon Bollig and goaltender Antoine Bibeau. Bollig, 30, is a physical, fourth-line caliber forward, but doesn’t produce enough on a consistent basis to be a regular player. Bollig hit his career-high in points in 2013-14 with the Chicago Blackhawks when he scored 14 points in 82 games. Soon after, he was traded to the Calgary Flames, where he scored just nine points in 116 games over two seasons before being buried in the AHL for the entirety of the 2016-17 season. The big winger posted 11 goals and 11 assists in 60 games for the AHL’s Stockton Heat, but still brings little to the the table for the Sharks other than grit and experience. As for Bibeau, the 23-year-old keeper was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Toronto Maple Leafs after a disappointing season. Bibeau had an .894 save percentage and 3.08 GAA in 32 regular season appearances for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and performed even worse in his one playoff game. Bibeau had clearly fallen behind Garret Sparks and Kasimir Kaskisuo to fifth in the Leafs’ organizational depth chart, and so he was not retained. In San Jose, Bibeau will be no greater than fourth behind Jones, Aaron Dell, and Troy Grosenick and may never get another NHL start.
Bollig and Bibeau, two players destined for the AHL, are not exactly an inspiring pair, which begs the question: will the Sharks make another move? The team is far from perfect and could use some help. Jones and Dell proved to be a solid duo last season and the blue line is as deep as any in the NHL, but San Jose is not without needs up front. The Sharks ranked just 19th in scoring last season, and also boasted on of the worst power play’s in the NHL, below average face-off numbers, and poor possession stats. Burns (a defenseman) was the team’s leading scorer last year and tied for the team lead in goals, while the since-departed Marleau was fifth in scoring and third in goals. The rest of the top five scorers – Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and Joe Thornton – will return, but the 38-year-old Thornton is recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, an injury that occurred after he scored all *seven* of his goals. Beyond those three forwards, the production dropped way off in 2016-17 to the likes of disappointments such as Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward and young, developing players like Chris Tierney and Tomas Hertl. The Sharks have a clear need for secondary scoring, especially with Marleau gone, and could use a power play catalyst as well. Brandon Bollig is not going to cut it and a full season of Jannik Hansen, acquired at the Trade Deadline, likely won’t either.
Top options for the Sharks include Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, and Jiri Hudler, while taking a waiver on a veteran like Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, P.A. Parenteau, or Mike Ribeiro or on a younger player like Alex Chiasson or Brandon Pirri could work as well. Given the Sharks’ scoring needs, their sufficient cap space, and the complete dullness of their off-season to this point, perhaps maybe two of those players could find their way to San Jose. If not, the Sharks do have pieces to make a move to acquire a scorer, potentially a Matt Duchene or Evander Kane, if they so choose. One way or another, GM Doug Wilson needs to do something, and quick, or not only will he have a team that has surely gotten worse since the end of the season, but he will have a disappointed fan base on his hands as well.