Kevin took a big step forward in his production last season and has grown into an important part of our team here in San Jose. He’s always had a dangerous shot but really stepped into a playmaking role for us last season and improved his 200-foot game as well. We think he still has even more potential to tap into and we’re excited to see what he can do with an elevated role with this talented group.
The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reports that it is a $1MM salary on Labanc’s new deal, a shocking value for a player who nearly recorded 60 points this past season. It is a hometown discount for sure for Labanc, 23, who will still be a restricted free agent next summer and is betting on himself with this deal. The sixth-round pick made quick work of the AHL after making the leap to professional hockey, and just finished his first full season in the NHL. Scoring 17 goals and 56 points, the former OHL superstar is ready to take another step and become one of the offensive leaders in San Jose now that Joe Pavelski has left town and Joe Thornton is another year older. If he does improve his numbers again in 2019-20, he’ll be in line for an even bigger deal next summer.
That’s the gamble the Sharks had to take though, given their cap crunch this year. The team spent a good amount of their cap space on extensions with Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier, leaving them without room to really buy out several years of unrestricted free agent status with Labanc. A short-term deal like this could result in him asking for even more in a year’s time, but also places much of the risk on Labanc to perform up to his standards and stay healthy. For a team looking like Stanley Cup contenders once again, that kind of bet can be beneficial to both sides.
The question now will be just how high can Labanc climb? When the Sharks picked him 171st overall in 2014 he was coming off a 35-point season with the Barrie Colts and looked like a potential organizational filler. He quickly showed he had bigger plans with a 107-point season following his draft, only to up that even further by scoring 153 points in a combined 80 regular season and playoff games for the Colts in 2015-16. An impressive playmaking presence on the powerplay, Labanc could see his numbers improve even further if a bump in ice time comes this season. Those 56 points last season came while averaging just 14 minutes a night, something that should change with Pavelski no longer in the mix on the right wing.