Sharks

Joonas Donskoi wants to re-sign with Sharks if San Jose will have him

Joonas Donskoi wants to re-sign with Sharks if San Jose will have him

SAN JOSE -- Like every other Sharks player with a contract ending this summer, Joonas Donskoi said he was trying not to focus too much on what might happen after the season was over.

"During the season I wanted to focus on hockey," he told the media during San Jose's season-ending locker cleanout on May 23. "Our goal was to win the Stanley Cup so all of my thoughts were in that process."

Now that process is over and the focus turns to the long list of free agents on Team Teal's roster -- and which of those free agents will be in San Jose next season. Donskoi, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, finds himself on that list following a season full of highs and lows. One thing is for certain though: He's hoping to be one of the players who stays. 

"Of course, it's been a great four years here and I really hope to be back," Donskoi said. 

The Finnish forward is coming off something of a rollercoaster campaign for the Sharks. Following two seasons that were hampered by injuries, Donskoi played in 80 regular-season contests. He hit his stride in the middle of the season after being put on Tomas Hertl's wing, tallying at least one point in eight out of nine contests. However, after scoring a goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 10, he couldn't find the back of the net and was subsequently a healthy scratch twice toward the end of the regular season. 

"There were a lot of ups and downs," Donskoi summarized when asked about the season. "I think the main thing for me coming into this season was staying healthy. I was pretty healthy all season long, during the regular season. Some small injuries. But like I said, there were ups and downs."

Donskoi had much better luck in the playoffs as head coach Peter DeBoer moved him throughout the lineup -- a valuable trait for a player, regardless of team. He even ended his goal drought by scoring a game-winning goal in the playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche -- a beautiful wraparound attempt reminiscent of a goal he scored during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Nevertheless, Donskoi wishes he had been able to contribute more.

"I think I played my best hockey in the playoffs, (but) the thing I could've done better is be more productive, score more goals," he said. "I think that's what we needed in the playoffs. It's all about that."

Now that the playoffs are over, attention turns to what the 27-year-old brings to the table beyond this summer. One thing that Donskoi has on his side is he can be moved throughout the lineup and help create offense, which has aided the Sharks' depth throughout his tenure in teal. However, that also makes him an attractive player to other teams in need of adding depth to their offensive arsenal, so it won't be a surprise if he's pursued -- maybe even by a division rival. 

Of course, Donskoi's future isn't hinging solely on how he played for the Sharks during the 2018-19 season. He is one of five unrestricted free agents set to hit the market, including big fish Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton, and Joe Pavelski. With so many tough decisions that have to be made, Donskoi is by no means a certainty to be back in teal next season.

[RELATED: Pavelski remains confident he'll be a Shark next season]

We do know, however, that he's hoping to stay. 

Martin Jones 'really solid' in preseason debut despite Sharks' loss

Martin Jones 'really solid' in preseason debut despite Sharks' loss

SAN JOSE - Martin Jones didn't give up a goal in the first few minutes of Saturday's game against the Vegas Golden Knights. In many of his starts last season, that was not the case.

And even though Saturday's game was a preseason tuneup, it was a good sign.

Jones is entering the upcoming season under a bit more scrutiny than some of his previous campaigns. His save percentage dipped in 2019 from .915 to .896, and his habit of giving up the first goal early in games had the team in front of him playing from behind on one too many occasions.

Despite ending the season tied for the third-most regular-season wins among goalies across the league last year, there's no denying he needs to be better in his 2019-20 campaign.

Although the Sharks fell to the rival Golden Knights 3-1 on Saturday evening, Sharks' head coach Peter DeBoer was happy with Jones' first preseason outing.

"I thought he was really solid," DeBoer said afterward. "I thought he played a really good game."

Jones appeared to see the game pretty well for most of the evening, flashing the leather a few times when the Vegas offense began to pick up steam.

Even though Vegas' next two goals -- scored by familiar foes Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch -- were a bit reminiscent of goals scored against Jones last year, the goalie was able to rebound and shake off a little more of that preseason rust. 

Score aside, Jones' first preseason contest gives more hope that San Jose's goaltending arsenal can bounce back this season. Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, impressed in his first preseason showing last week against the Anaheim Ducks.

This has created some suspicion that one of San Jose's young netminders have a window to fight for the backup job. With just two preseason games left until the Sharks' 2019-20 campaign opens up on the road in Las Vegas, both goalies are bound to get more work in as they gear up for the regular season.

On that same note, San Jose still has roles to fill on their roster, and just about a week to make some decisions as to who will skate with the big club on opening night. 

In Saturday's game against the Golden Knights, forward Lean Bergmann and defenseman Mario Ferraro were the big standouts. But as DeBoer told the press after the game, this audition period is now drawing to a close and his roster needs to be put together.

[RELATED: How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team]

"You start running out of evaluation nights," the head coach said. "We're getting close. We have to start getting our group together and start to get ready. That's what this is about. So the guys, I think, between the training camp scrimmages and the exhibition games, have had more than enough opportunity to show us what they can do."

San Jose's final three preseason games will be against the Ducks, Flames, and Golden Knights. 

How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team

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USATSI

How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team

It's a darn good thing the Sharks have a bevy of talent coming up the pipeline -- especially on defense.

With news coming out of training camp Friday that Radim Simek is questionable to be ready for game-action when the season opens on Oct. 2, the focus shifts not just to when he might finally rejoin the team, but to who will most likely fill in that void on San Jose's blue line.

With four preseason games remaining, San Jose has a couple of options when it comes to filling in that roster spot.

Being that Simek is a left-handed shooter, the best bets to pencil into the roster from San Jose's group of young talent are Jacob Middleton and Mario Ferraro. Middleton has a strong chance of being the go-to guy, having been recalled from the Barracuda on a few occasions last season to fill in when the injury bug bit the Sharks' blue line especially hard.

Fans might remember Middleton's surprise NHL debut back in January when he went from prepping for a road trip with the Barracuda one night to practicing alongside Brent Burns the following morning. At that time, left-handed defensemen Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were both out of the lineup.

Even with Middleton's prior experience at the NHL level, Ferraro will likely still be a consideration to make the opening night roster. The 21-year-old has been impressing the organization since he participated in rookie development camp back in July and has continued that trend through training camp. Ferraro also has recently been paired up in camp with Dalton Prout -- who the Sharks will likely keep in mind to fill in should one of their right-handed defensemen be sidelined.

Having a few different players who can file into the lineup also gives DeBoer more options as far as mixing and matching his d-pairs. Middleton filled right into Simek's spot alongside Burns last year, and should the pairing of Brenden Dillon and Erik Karlsson stay intact, the Middleton-Burns pairing could be reunited with Vlasic being paired up with Tim Heed. If both Ferraro and Prout demonstrate they're a reliable pair to start, the duo might get the nod which would keep Vlasic and Burns skating together as they have been through the start of the preseason.

Of course, those are just guesses as to how DeBoer's lineup will shake up until Simek comes back healthy.

Naturally, the best-case scenario is that Simek gets into the lineup sooner rather than later. San Jose did go 29-9-3 with a healthy Simek in the lineup last season, after all. Plus, Simek's ticket into a regular roster spot was his uncanny chemistry with Burns.

[RELATED: Why Sharks expect Meier to take step forward]

That being said, the Sharks don't want to rush the Czech defenseman back into the lineup too quickly. Sure, Simek has been training for some time now, following surgery to repair the ACL and MCL in his right knee. Teammate Tomas Hertl told the press on the first day of camp that he talked to Simek over the summer and that the blueliner has been "working his ass off" to get back into playing shape. Nevertheless, the Sharks don't want to bring Simek back to quickly and risk him re-injuring himself.

At least the Sharks have good options for filling out their blue line until he returns.