How Sharks plan to reopen SAP Center after coronavirus shutdown ends

How Sharks plan to reopen SAP Center after coronavirus shutdown ends

Like the rest of the sporting world, the Sharks are waiting to reopen and planning for what that might look like in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

For Sharks president Jonathan Becher that question has a lot of moving parts. The Sharks assume that SAP Center will be one of the last buildings in the NHL to open back up for games, and they currently are planning for several different scenarios.

"Here's the way I think about it: We don't know when we'll be back," Becher told ESPN. "We don't know what the rules are when we get back. But we can guess 8-10 likely scenarios. For example, we already know how to put on a game with full fans. That's the best-case scenario. We also had to model how to put on games with no fans in the building, which is something we were almost forced into doing."

The Sharks were prepared to play a game without fans March 19, but the NHL boarded up its season a week earlier.

"Scenarios like if there's no fans, and it's TV-only," Becher told ESPN. "There's no fans, with just TV and radio. A TV broadcast truck requires a bunch of people. Maybe we're allowed 250 people, roughly -- that's a crew, coaches, doctors on-site and other things. The minimum number of people is a lot more than you'd think. And it's a big building."

One of the bigger variables in every scenario is how many fans will be allowed in and how the Sharks will get them through the gates and to their seats safely in a manner fitting with the direction of public health officials.

"What if, on top of that, the only people you're allowed to have are ones in suites, because all the suites have glass enclosures on them and they sit between 12-18 people?" Becher said. "Maybe groups of 12-18 people are allowed, so we'll build a model for that. I don't know that's something that will be suggested, but that's a model we can build. What if it's only 1,000 people?

"OK, now we lay 1,000 people into the upper and lower bowls, and we talk about how we'll get them in through the doors, what that looks like. We probably have to give them times for them to show up. And which 1,000 get in? We have between 8,000-10,000 season-ticket holders. We have to think through that."

The ability to keep everyone safe and give fans and employees a sense of security and safety is a paramount concern.

"People have speculated that maybe everybody has to have their temperature checked. OK, if that ends up being true, then how many thermal thermometers would we need? How long would it take to buy them? We're not going to buy them now if we don't need them," Becher said. "Which doors do we open up? Do we have to tell people to wear masks? What happens if someone shows up without a mask? We probably have to sell them or give them one. Do we turn them away?

"We're just building, scenario by scenario."

Santa Clara County was one of the first to ban large gatherings. Becher believes the county will be one of the last to lift such restrictions. The Sharks might not return to SAP Center until December even if the NHL restarts its season. They likely could play their games elsewhere as Santa Clara County continues to practice social distancing and quarantine to fight the virus.

But Becher wants to make sure everything is safe before the Sharks and fans return to SAP.

"We were the first to close. My guess is that we'll be the last to open," Becher told ESPN. "That's OK. If we're the last to open, that means that [the message is that] it's OK to open. I don't want to open up until fans know it's safe for them to come in. Part of my DNA is that I don't want you in my building if it's not safe. If I've convinced myself that it's safe for employees, then it's probably safe for fans.

"If some fans still aren't comfortable, I'm not going to hold that against them. It's a personal decision. But I don't want you in my building if it's not safe. Because then I'm in my building, because you're in my building."

While several franchises decided to enact staff and pay reductions with no games being played, the Sharks opted to pay their employees who have been impacted by the stoppage in play.

"We were born in San Jose," Becher said. "We've always been here. Most of our players live here as well, and many of them have houses nearby. Our practice facility is in San Jose. We're a community sport."

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For now, the Sharks and the rest of the sporting world wait to get restarted. The NHL and NBA are hoping they can finish their seasons and crown a champion. Major League Baseball hopes to get underway at some point in the summer. The NFL is hoping to hold a normal season come fall.

Whenever sports return, Becher and the Sharks plan to be ready quickly after the A-OK is given.

"Whatever is decided probably won't be one of our models. But the hope is that it's a combination of things we're already worked through, so we can be ready in a short number of days," Becher said. "We build likely outcomes and one of those hopefully happens.

"What we're not doing is starting from scratch."

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

I think we’re all due for some good news. So is Sharks’ All-Star center Tomas Hertl and his wife Aneta.

Aneta announced on her Instagram account the two are expecting a baby in November.

The first photo is the two of them posing together with the sonogram picture. The second is of a baby onesie with “Born in 2020” embroidered on it.

This is fresh off the couple's one-year wedding anniversary which, rumor has it, the big day was quite a fun time.

Back in May, Hertl spoke to the media about his rehab after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee where he vowed he would be better than he was before. But he’ll have to wait.

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The Sharks will not be participating in the NHL’s a modified 24-team return-to-play format.

That’s OK though, he has something even better to look forward to … a baby Shark. 

NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected

NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected

We don't know when the next NHL season will begin or end, but once it does, a new team officially will join the fold.

The still-unnamed Seattle expansion franchise will become the league's 32nd team, and in the process, the Sharks will lose a player from their roster as part of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

Not everyone in San Jose will be up for grabs. The Sharks, along with the other 30 current NHL teams, will be permitted to protect a group of their players from the expansion draft according to one of two options. Either a) protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or b) protect eight skaters and one goalie.

So, where does that leave the Sharks? 

By narrowing down who San Jose is likely to protect, we can zero in on which players are likely to be exposed.

Automatically protected: Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (no-movement clauses)
Certain to be protected: Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier
Very likely to be protected: Evander Kane

That's six pretty-darn-sure things already, plus an unnamed goalie. So, under this assumption, the Sharks would only be able to protect three more forwards and one additional defenseman under Option A, or just two more skaters under Option B.

Though nearly all of San Jose's top prospects will be automatically exempt due to lack of service time, Jonathan Dahlen -- generally regarded as the Sharks' second-best prospect -- will be eligible for inclusion due to his playing AHL games in 2017-18. So, chances are, they'll protect him as well.

Regardless of which option San Jose goes with, that doesn't leave them many more choices. As such, here are some of the more notable names that the Sharks might be forced to make available to Seattle in the expansion draft:

Brent Burns

What the Sharks decide to do with Burns likely will depend on the trajectory of the team heading into the 2021 offseason. If San Jose successfully turns things around in short order, then keeping the 36-year-old Burns -- who has another four years left on his contract at $8 million per season -- will make a lot more sense than if an extended rebuild appears to be on the horizon.

The Sharks have several large salaries on their books, and making Burns available would be one possible way to alleviate some of that building pressure. Of course, if Burns has a Norris-type season next year, San Jose likely will do everything it can to keep him. More than anything, Burns' performance next season likely will have the most determining effect on who the Sharks make available.

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Martin Jones

Assuming he's still on the roster and doesn't have a major bounce-back season, Jones would seem to be one of the more likely inclusions on San Jose's unprotected list. He carries a hefty price tag and hasn't lived up to it for the last couple of years.

Of course, the Sharks don't really have anything in the way of an established goalie behind him -- Aaron Dell is an unrestricted free agent -- so if one doesn't emerge, they might be forced to protect him. If San Jose makes Jones available, that likely means one of the Sharks' goaltending prospects made a significant leap or a free agent outperformed him in the year ahead.

Kevin Labanc

He brings plenty of talent to the table and has been useful on the power play. But Labanc's problem is consistency. On some nights, he's one of the best players on the ice. Others, you hardly notice him. He bet on himself last offseason, but it didn't appear to pay off.

A restricted free agent, San Jose should be able to re-sign him at an affordable price. He still is only 24 years old, though. Should Labanc take a couple steps forward next season, it likely will come at a discount, which the Sharks would likely want to protect. If he's ultimately made available, he could offer the combination of youth and talent that would pique Seattle's interest.

Stefan Noesen

Acquired early in the season, Noesen, 27, made a strong impression during his first year in San Jose. He provided the occasional offense, scoring six goals in 34 games, as well as some sorely-needed toughness. He also immediately became a leader in the locker room.

Noesen currently is an unrestricted free agent, but it would be surprising if he didn't start next season in a Sharks sweater, and he shouldn't be too costly either. If he can build off this past season's performance, one would imagine San Jose would prefer to keep him around. Who else the Sharks protect likely will determine if he can be protected or not.

Dylan Gambrell/Antti Suomela/Alex True

Gambrell has accomplished the most of the three, but he's running short on time. A restricted free agent at the end of next season, he'll be eligible for inclusion in the expansion draft if he plays in at least 20 games. Unless he breaks out, Gambrell seems likely to be one of the names the Sharks leave unprotected.

You could say the same thing about Suomela -- assuming the restricted free agent is re-signed -- who has notched four goals and 11 assists over 47 NHL games across the last two seasons. He's still only 26, but has yet to live up to his potential. True, on the other hand, is younger (22 years old) and was fairly noticeable over the course of his NHL debut this season. He should have a good opportunity to begin the season with San Jose, and would seem to be the most likely of the three to carve out a long-term role with the big club.