Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Aaron Dell, G
Salary cap hit: $625,000, signed through 2017-18
2015-16 year in review: In his first full season in the American Hockey League, Aaron Dell seized the number one job on the Barracuda by posting a 17-16-6 record, 2.42 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 40 games. That earned him a two-year, $1.25 million contract extension with the Sharks this offseason, and he’s currently penciled in as the backup to Martin Jones on the depth chart.
Dell’s extension also fulfills the Sharks’ obligation to expose at least one goaltender under contract for the upcoming expansion draft next summer, allowing them to protect Jones.
2016-17 outlook: It’s difficult to predict just how Dell will fare in what is expected to be his first taste of NHL hockey, but the University of North Dakota product is much older than your standard NHL rookie, so it’s unlikely his game will drastically change at this point in his career. By all accounts he was outstanding with the Barracuda last season, so he’s earned a chance to make his NHL debut.
Still, it was a bit surprising that the Sharks didn’t ink one of the many veteran backups that were available this offseason. Jones is obviously the undisputed number one, but he played better in the second half when he was given a chance rest. Jones’ stellar postseason may not have been possible without James Reimer shouldering a large portion of the workload down the stretch. Is a guy like Dell prepared to play that many games? Consider, too, that San Jose has 16 back-to-backs this season.
The Sharks’ lack of salary cap space after signing Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko, though, essentially forced them to stay in-house for a backup. Dell will be the front-runner in training camp, competing with Troy Grosenick, whose stock has fallen. If Dell shows he can play at the NHL level that would obviously be an ideal situation. If he can’t, then expect the Sharks to look elsewhere for a backup midway through the season, much like they did after Alex Stalock’s dramatic decline in 2015-16.