Sharks

Logan Couture misses empty net shortly before Blues extend Game 6 lead

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Logan Couture misses empty net shortly before Blues extend Game 6 lead

The Sharks were this close to tying it up.

Next thing you know, they're down by two again.

Ugh. San Jose fell behind 2-0 in Game 6 against the Blues on Tuesday night, but seized some momentum when Dylan Gambrell scored his first career NHL goal in the second period to cut the deficit in half.

Minutes later, Logan Couture had a tremendous opportunity to tie the game, but he whiffed on an open net.

Shortly thereafter, Sharks defenseman Justin Braun committed a hooking penalty, and the Blues eventually scored on that ensuing power-play, expanding their lead to 3-1 with less than eight minutes remaining in the second period.

If the Sharks' season ends in Game 6, they'll be left to wonder how things might have worked out differently had Couture deposited the puck into the empty net.

NHL rumors: Sharks' Kevin Labanc receiving interest from 'multiple teams'

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NHL rumors: Sharks' Kevin Labanc receiving interest from 'multiple teams'

After having a career year, Kevin Labanc appears to be in high demand.

The 23-year-old tallied 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) and steadied himself once he joined Joe Thornton's line. Labanc will become a restricted free agent July 1, and although the Sharks would love to keep him, they might have some competition for the young winger, according to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period.

On Tuesday, the Sharks issued qualifying offers to Labanc and six others, meaning the Sharks retain their rights and are entitled to compensation should any of the seven players sign an offer sheet with another team.

That's what makes the possibility of Labanc leaving a bit far-fetched.

If Labanc did sign an offer sheet, the Sharks would be entitled to compensation based on the salary he received.

No player has signed an offer sheet since 2013, and much of the offer sheet talk has been overblown. Most hockey general managers are too scared to put pen to paper when it comes to offer sheets.

[RELATED: Stay or go: Why keeping Nyquist could be hard for Sharks]

The Sharks have a tenuous cap situation after the Erik Karlsson signing. They are slotted to have only $14.8 million left and could lose Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist all of whom are unrestricted free agents.

Smart money is on Labanc returning to San Jose, but anything is possible.

Sharks free-agency decisions: Will winger Gustav Nyquist stay or go?

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Sharks free-agency decisions: Will winger Gustav Nyquist stay or go?

There are firsts in every NHL career.

For winger Gustav Nyquist, that meant waiving his no-trade clause with the Detroit Red Wings and joining the Sharks ahead of February's trade deadline -- the first time he had ever been traded.

Now, just a couple months later, the 29-year-old forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent -- another first in his hockey career -- and possibly could be on the move yet again.

Here's a look at why Nyquist could stay, and why he could be headed to another team before the summer is over.

Why he could stay

Nyquist told reporters at the Sharks' final media availability of the season last month that he was open to staying in San Jose. At the time, there had been no contracts talks -- a thread that appears common among the Sharks long list of pending free agents. 

It's worth noting that was before Nyquist's good friend Erik Karlsson re-signed in San Jose earlier this month. Nevertheless, Nyquist had nothing but good things to say about the Sharks' organization.

"I love it here. I had a great time here," he said on May 23. "I had a great experience, a great three months. It's nothing I've thought about. it's still a month away. I know I don't have a contract for next year yet, but we'll see what happens."

The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun reported Wednesday that San Jose "hasn’t closed the door bringing [Nyquist] back," despite having just over $14.8 million in salary-cap space with only seven forwards under contract.

Although it took Nyquist a bit of time to find where he fit on his new team, he found a home on Logan Couture's wing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In all, Nyquist scored 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 39 regular-season and playoff games. 

Should he stay, Nyquist can help round out the Sharks' forward depth. Being more familiar with the team at this point, the Swedish winger could even have a bigger impact for the Sharks next season. 

Why he could go

About that lack of cap space. The Sharks are rumored to be trying to move players just days ahead of the beginning of free agency in an effort to free up some breathing room, meaning their roster could look drastically different next season whether or not they can keep unrestricted free agents like Nyquist and Joe Pavelski.

In Nyquist's case, the Sharks may not be able to give him a contract that matches his needs. An eight-year veteran with a growing family -- Nyquist and his wife welcomed a baby girl into the world during the Sharks' 20-game playoff run -- likely wants a long-term deal. Nyquist, who becomes a free agent with the expiration of a four-year contract he signed in Detroit, probably is looking for a five- or six-year contract. 

San Jose, at least at this moment, hasn't struck a deal with captain Joe Pavelski. Agreeing to a term long enough for Nyquist might not be in the cards, either. 

[RELATED: Sharks troll Golden Knights in schedule release graphic]

The verdict

As much as Nyquist genuinely seems like he wants to stay in San Jose, it's possible the Sharks have trouble keeping him.

With players currently meeting teams ahead of the free agent market opening up, Nyquist could potentially meet with a team he likes that could later present him with a deal that suits him. LeBrun reported Wednesday that Detroit and the Edmonton Oilers are interested.

That isn't to say the door has completely closed on Nyquist staying in San Jose. However, considering the Sharks' lack of wiggle room under the cap, that will be difficult.