The Sharks have avoided salary arbitration with RFA winger Kevin Labanc, announcing that they’ve signed him to a four-year contract. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that the deal will carry an AAV of $4.725MM while TSN’s Frank Seravalli adds (via Twitter) the full breakdown:
2020-21: $3.2MM (includes a $1.5MM signing bonus)
2021-22: $3.95MM (includes a $1MM signing bonus)
2022-23: $5.875MM salary
2023-24: $5.875MM salary
There is no form of trade protection in the contract though he was only eligible for it in the final year.
GM Doug Wilson released the following statement on the signing:
Kevin brings a rare level of offensive skill and creativity to our line-up and has established himself as a top-six forward in our league. His Game 7 playoff performance last season is one of the most iconic moments in Sharks history and is a perfect example of the impact he can have on a hockey game. Kevin has shown a consistent ability to perform at a high level in both the regular season and the playoffs and he will be a big part of our club in the coming years.
The 24-year-old had a breakout year in 2018-19 that saw him pick up 17 goals and 39 assists in 82 games while chipping in with nine points in 20 postseason games including the one Wilson referenced in his statement. However, without arbitration eligibility and San Jose being up against the cap, he opted to take a one-year, $1MM contract with an eye on getting a bigger deal this offseason.
Mission accomplished. While Labanc took a notable step back offensively this year, he still managed to put up 14 goals and 19 assists in 70 games while logging a career-best 16:04 per game. Clearly, the Sharks feel that he has shown enough to be a full-time part of their top six and have given a deal that buys out the rest of his arbitration eligibility along with his first UFA-eligible season.
With the signing, San Jose has its five highest-paid forwards all locked up through 2021-22 so this is their core for the next couple of years at the very least. They have just under $3MM left in cap space per CapFriendly with no remaining free agents at the NHL level to re-sign. That gives the Sharks a bit of wiggle room to try to add a depth player or two or hold their space for in-season moves.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.