Sharks

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks' Joe Thornton 'feels great', will return for 22nd NHL season

Sharks' Joe Thornton 'feels great', will return for 22nd NHL season

It's sounding like Joe Thornton will be back with the Sharks next season.

Thornton had previously expressed that if he were to return for a 22nd NHL season, it would indeed be with San Jose.

"I’m a Shark,” Thornton said at the Sharks' end-of-season availability. “There’s one team, and it’s here.”

At the NHL Awards media availability on Tuesday, Thornton eliminated whatever mystery remained and confirmed he would put off retirement for at least another year, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Thornton went even further while clarifying his comments to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

Thornton can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but it's fully expected he and San Jose will come to an agreement on a contract -- a task made somewhat easier by the trade of defensemen Justin Braun on Tuesday morning, which provides some much-needed salary cap relief.

[RELATED: Sharks trade Braun to Flyers, acquire two draft picks]

"He can have all the time he needs to make whatever decision’s right for him," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said of Thornton back in May. "But we love him. I think I’ve been in this business a long time, I’ve never met anyone like him and we cherish the days we have him."

Thornton's announcement Tuesday would seem to indicate there are plenty of more days left to cherish.

Sharks free-agency decisions: Should Joakim Ryan stay or go?

Sharks free-agency decisions: Should Joakim Ryan stay or go?

SAN JOSE - To say that the Sharks' blue line got banged up over last season is a bit of an understatement.

In addition to the long stretch of time Erik Karlsson missed with a groin injury, Marc-Edouard-Vlasic and Justin Braun were sidelined with their respective ailments, and Radim Simek had his stellar rookie season cut short by a knee injury that required surgery. 

When it came to filling the void left by San Jose's blueliners, Joakim Ryan was one Shark who was called upon to pencil into the lineup, ending the season with 44 regular-season games under his belt.

Now, Ryan is set to be a restricted free agent on July 1, and his future with the team -- like just about everyone else's on the free agent list -- is unclear. Here's a look at why he could stay in San Jose, and why he could be long gone.

Why he could stay

San Jose's defense is short a left-handed shot after trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesay. With Jacob Middleton being the only other left-hander coming up the pipeline, Ryan might be the Sharks' only readily-available defenseman to fill that void. If Ryan stays, it's possible he and Middleton could fight for the same job.

Ryan also has experience playing alongside a Norris Trophy-winner in Brent Burns. The Cornell product had the difficult task of being "on call" for most of the season and most of that time was spent paired up with the Wookiee. Ryan was also the only defenseman coach Peter DeBoer put into the lineup during the playoffs when Erik Karlsson aggravated his groin injury.

Why he could go

Remember, Ryan started off the regular season alongside Burns before essentially being knocked out of that spot by Simek. Even as DeBoer called on him to fill in other times throughout the season, the coach still said on multiple occasions that he wanted to see more out of the 26-year-old who ended the season with seven assists and at a minus-15.

It's also highly unlikely the Sharks are done moving personnel around this summer as they make room to accommodate high priority free agents set to hit the market on July 1. Even with the Braun trade freeing up some cap space, San Jose can't keep every RFA and UFA on its current list of 21 players.

Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc -- both RFAs -- are likely to get locked into contracts before Ryan is.

The verdict

Although the Braun trade appears to leave the door open for Ryan to stay and get another chance at holding down a spot in San Jose's starting lineup, there's no guarantee the Sharks sign him to a deal. The coaching staff needed more out of him this past season, and the team is likely looking to sign other RFAs first.

With that in mind, it's possible Ryan could be playing somewhere else next season.

[RELATED: Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks]

For those worried about where that leaves the Sharks' defense, keep in mind: San Jose has a history of making trades over the weekend of the draft, so moves to San Jose's defense could still be made even within the week.

There's no reason to think the Sharks are done piecing next season's defense together just yet. Where Ryan could fit into that mix, however, is difficult to determine.