Sharks

NHL expansion draft: Projecting who Sharks will protect from Seattle

NHL expansion draft: Projecting who Sharks will protect from Seattle

Editor's note: This week, NBC Sports California will look ahead to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, at which time the Seattle franchise officially will join the league as its 32nd team. Every team in the league will be affected, as players from (nearly) every roster will be made available to Seattle for its inaugural roster. We conclude with a projection of the Sharks' protected list. 

Two summers from now, the Sharks will have to submit their protection list for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.

While that may seem like quite a distance in the future, teams are already preparing for the arrival of the currently unnamed Seattle franchise, which will join the Pacific Division ahead of the 2021-22 season. Seattle's roster will be comprised of players from the other teams in the league (except Vegas) who were left unprotected by their respective clubs.

We've covered the rules that will govern the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, and identified the goalies, defensemen and forwards San Jose is likely to both protect and expose. San Jose has two options at its disposal. Either a) protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or b) protect eight skaters (forwards or defensemen) and one goalie.

Based on what we know now, here's an educated guess at who the Sharks will protect in each of those scenarios.

Option A: 11 players (seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie)

Forwards
Logan Couture
Timo Meier
Tomas Hertl
Evander Kane
Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen
Alex True

Couture, Meier and Hertl are all locks to be protected. There's no chance Sharks general manager Doug Wilson lets any of them get away.

Kane is slightly more questionable, but hard to envision him not being protected in this scenario. He'll be entering his age-29 season at the time and carries a $7 million cap hit, but there's a reason Wilson both traded for the dynamic winger and signed him to a long-term contract.

Labanc just re-signed a one-year contract with San Jose, but he appears to be a critical piece of their foundation moving forward. If the Sharks re-sign him to a long-term contract next offseason, you can be sure it's with the intention of keeping him in San Jose for more than a year.

Sorensen and True are the toughest calls here, as it likely means exposing other young forwards like Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela. However, True's development -- he led the AHL Barracuda with 55 points in 68 games last season -- makes that easier to swallow. Sorensen is due to hit unrestricted free agency during the 2021 offseason, but the bet here is that San Jose re-signs the speedy winger (who has been a favorite of Peter DeBoer's) and protects him as well.

Defensemen
Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brent Burns

Karlsson and Vlasic are certainties. Both have no-movement clauses and are thus automatically protected unless they waive those clauses, which they won't.

Burns, on the other hand, has no such clause, and there is certainly a scenario in which San Jose elects to expose him. For instance, if Burns declines rapidly over the next two seasons, and is entering his age-36 season with still three additional seasons left of an $8 million cap hit, the expansion draft would afford the Sharks the opportunity to get out of the remainder of that contract. Of course, there's no guarantee that he would be picked up by Seattle in that situation.

However, based on Burns' performance last season, a rapid drop-off doesn't seem likely. And if he is able to maintain anything close to his Norris Trophy-level production, there simply isn't another defensemen in the organization worth protecting over Burns at this time.

Goalie
Martin Jones

One could make the case the Sharks should expose Jones, but looking at the current organizational depth chart, San Jose might not be able to risk that. Of course, if 21-year-old Josef Korenar (2.54 GAA, .911 SV% in 34 games with the Barracuda last season) makes the leap between now and the expansion draft, things could get very interesting.

Option B: 9 players (eight skaters, one goalie)

Skaters
Erik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Logan Couture
Timo Meier
Tomas Hertl
Evander Kane
Kevin Labanc
Alex True

The tough decisions here revolve around Kane and Burns. If the Sharks choose to go with Option B, it's difficult to envision them using three of their eight skater protections on defensemen. With Karlsson and Vlasic having no-movement clauses, Burns is the odd man out.

It could certainly come down to a choice between Kane and Burns, given their sizeable cap hits. If one of San Jose's young forward prospects, such as Alex Chmelevski or Ivan Chekhovich, emerges between now and then, it might allow the Sharks to expose Kane and protect Burns (or anyone else) instead. 

[RELATED: Sharks will miss Pavelski's leadership more than his goals]

This is a projection for True, but if he continues along his current trajectory, the 22-year old will be worth protecting in either scenario.

Goalie:
Martin Jones

See Option A. Unless another goalie emerges, the Sharks probably won't be able to afford to let Jones get away. However, San Jose likes its organizational depth at that position, and it will be worth keeping an eye on who Jones' backup is over the next two seasons.

[RELATED: Sharks will miss Pavelski's leadership more than his goals]

Verdict

As things currently stand, it sure seems like San Jose's evaluation of Burns heading into the 2021 offseason will have a determining effect on which option the Sharks choose to go with. If they feel like he can still play at a high level two years from now, then Option A would seem to be the way to go. But if Burns falls off, or if San Jose needs to find a way to get out of some major salary, he could be on the chopping block.

NHL rumors: Brinson Pasichnuk, Sharks nearing contract agreement

brinsonap.jpg
AP

NHL rumors: Brinson Pasichnuk, Sharks nearing contract agreement

The Sharks reportedly are close to adding some promising defensive depth to their organization.

San Jose is nearing agreement on a contract with Arizona State defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz first reported and The Hockey News' Ken Campbell and Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka later confirmed.

Pasichnuk, 22, scored 107 points (39 goals, 68 assists) in 136 games over four seasons with the Sun Devils. The 6-foot, 180-pound defenseman ranked third among blueliners with 37 points this season, tying for second in goals (11) behind only Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist David Farrance of Boston University.

Campbell reported Monday that Pasichnuk narrowed down his 20 suitors to the Sharks and Arizona Coyotes. He told The Hockey News that he knows where he is signing, but is "just waiting to see what (the NHL is doing)" for the remainder of the season during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sharks got a glimpse at Pasichnuk last summer when he skated in the team's development camp, along with his brother, Steen. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau ranked the younger Pasichnuk 115th out of all draft-eligible skaters in 2016, but the defenseman was not drafted.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says teachers are legends amid pandemic]

A standout collegiate career got him on to NHL scouts' radar, and Pasichnuk conceivably could be in line for playing time this season -- assuming the Sharks play if the season resumes -- or next. Nikolai Knyzhov and Jacob Middleton have played on San Jose's third defense pairing since Brenden Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals last month, and Pasichnuk -- a left-shooting defenseman like those three -- could then slot in behind Radim Simek and Mario Ferraro.

Ferraro, 21, and top prospect Ryan Merkley, 19, are the Sharks' most promising young defensemen. Pasichnuk's time at Arizona State indicates he'll warrant consideration, too. 

How Sharks' wild comeback win vs. Predators epitomized 2018-19 season

How Sharks' wild comeback win vs. Predators epitomized 2018-19 season

Progamming note: Watch the re-air of the Sharks' comeback win over the Nashville Predators from Oct. 23, 2018 tonight at 8 PT on NBC Sports California.

They didn't know it at the time, but a win over the Nashville Predators on Oct. 23, 2018 ultimately laid bare the Sharks' strengths -- and weaknesses -- that would define their 2018-19 season.

The Sharks beat the Predators 5-4 that night in Nashville, overcoming a two-goal deficit with just under eight minutes remaining in the third period with a three-goal barrage in five minutes and 28 seconds. San Jose’s offense could keep up with just about any team last season, and lackluster goaltending largely necessitated said firepower.

Martin Jones stopped just 25 of the 29 shots he faced, even though the Sharks outshot the Predators in all situations (32-29) and held slight edges in 5-on-5 shot attempts, shots and scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Nashville created more high-danger chances (8-6) and expected goals (1.46-1.38) than San Jose at full strength.

Only the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning scored more goals (319) than the Sharks (289) last season, which was the most prolific in franchise history. Yet the Sharks finished with just a plus-31 goal differential, as Jones and backup goaltender Aaron Dell posted career-worst save percentages while the Sharks allowed the NHL’s 11th-most goals (258).

The Sharks ranked no worse than 12th in suppressing high-danger chances, scoring chances and expected goals at full strength, yet San Jose allowed 111 5-on-5 high-danger goals in the NHL. Only the Ottawa Senators -- defenseman Erik Karlsson’s former team -- and the Edmonton Oilers allowed more, and those teams finished an average of 22.5 points outside of the postseason.

But the Sharks had enough offensive talent to overcome their goaltending woes, finishing two wins shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. San Jose was too depleted to hang with the St. Louis Blues by the end of the Western Conference final, but a healthy Sharks team would’ve had a great chance to advance. The 2018-19 Sharks were an elite puck-possession team, capable of scoring in myriad ways.

That was evident in the aforementioned comeback win over the Predators. The Sharks scored twice on the power play, twice at even strength and once short-handed. Brenden Dillon got the comeback started with an end-to-end rush on the penalty kill, then-captain Joe Pavelski finished off a 3-on-2 fewer than 30 seconds later and a pair of Norris Trophy winners -- Karlsson and Brent Burns -- combined to seal the victory.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says "teachers are legends" amid pandemic]

The Sharks couldn’t have known their ninth game of 2018-19 would prove so instructive, but the win over the Predators set the tone for what was to come.

For better and worse.