The San Jose Sharks snuck a signing in before the deadline, as AHL goaltender Zach Sawchenko has earned his first NHL deal. The Sharks have announced that Sawchenko has signed a two-year entry-level contract that starts this season. CapFriendly adds that the deal carries the minimum salary for both years, $700K in 2020-21 and $750K in 2021-22, for an AAV of $725K. Sawchenko will have an AHL salary of $80K in both seasons, albeit prorated for the current year.
Sawchenko, 23, was once a highly-regarded young prospect. A two-time WHL First Team All-Star with the Moose Jaw Warriors and a member of Canada’s 2015 U-18 World Juniors team, Sawchenko looked like a budding NHL prospect, but was somehow never drafted. He even attended two years at the University of Alberta, with his stellar numbers again pointing toward pro potential. The Sharks finally gave the netminder a shot last season, signing him to a minor league contract. He found success right away, putting up strong numbers in limited AHL and ECHL action, and this season has been even better. Through two seasons, Sawchenko has a .912 save percentage and 2.76 GAA in 16 AHL games and a .928 save percentage and 2.42 GAA in 20 ECHL games.
Signing Sawchenko now serves a couple different purposes for the Sharks. Firstly, San Jose needed another pro option this season following the trade of Devan Dubnyk. The team plans to use other youngsters Josef Korenar and Alexei Melnichuk as interchangeable backups to Martin Jones for the rest of the year, so Sawchenko is unlikely to see any NHL action too quickly. However, there are no other pro goalies in the system for San Jose and in the event of an injury at the NHL level Sawchenko would become third-string and would likely be on the taxi squad down the stretch or in the postseason should the Sharks qualify. Signing Sawchenko to a two-year deal this season also allows the Sharks to reduce his cap hit for next season below the league minimum without actually having to pay him the full salary for this season. In the event that he is able to crack the NHL roster at any point next season, Sawchenko will be as affordable a player as possible.