Sharks

NHL expansion draft: Sharks must decide which goalies to protect, expose

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AP

NHL expansion draft: Sharks must decide which goalies to protect, expose

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 continue with an examination of which goalies the Sharks likely are to protect and expose.

Two summers from now, the Sharks will have a new Pacific Division rival.

The expansion franchise in Seattle is set to officially join the NHL for the 2021-22 regular season, but before it can take the ice, it needs players to do so.

As described in the rules that will govern the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, the rest of the teams in the league (except for the Vegas Golden Knights) will be forced to expose a certain number of players, making them eligible to be selected by Seattle. Each team has the ability to protect a limited number of players on its roster, making those players exempt from selection in the expansion draft.

Those protections are specific to position, and when it comes to goalies, each team will only be able to protect one on its roster. However, all players with no-movement clauses are automatically protected (unless they waive those clauses), and all first- and second-year players -- as well as all unsigned draft picks -- are exempt from inclusion in the expansion draft. 

Based on those restrictions, we can begin to zero in on who the Sharks might expose to the 2021 Expansion Draft, since they (and 28 other teams) will be obligated to expose at least one goalie who is either a) under contract in 2021-22, or b) will be a restricted free agent immediately prior to 2021-22.

Martin Jones enters next season as the unquestioned starter, and he's under contract through the 2023-24 season. He has a modified no-trade clause, but that doesn't afford the same automatic protections as a no-movement clause, so he is eligible to be exposed in the expansion draft. However, with very little in the way of tested netminders behind him in the organization, San Jose might be inclined to protect Jones, assuming he shows further evidence of 'Playoff Jones' between now and then.

Outside of Jones, Aaron Dell is the only other Sharks goalie currently signed to an NHL contract. However, Dell is entering the final year of his deal, and he's due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season. If the Sharks decide they want to expose Dell to the expansion draft, they must first re-sign him so that he fills the contract requirement.

In fact, in theory, any goalie who plays for the Sharks this coming season would be eligible to be exposed to the expansion draft, assuming they fulfill both the contract and experience requirements. 

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

The Sharks have multiple netminders in lower levels of the organization that they're high on, and if they're thinking ahead and want to ensure that none of them are made available in the expansion draft, you could see some clever maneuvering on San Jose's part this coming season or next. For instance, they conceivably could sign a backup goaltender with NHL experience to a contract through at least the end of the 2020-21 season, and then expose that player.

If Jones regresses, he's a natural candidate to be exposed, considering he'll still be under contract at that time. Similarly, if Dell gets re-signed to a short-term deal, that's an obvious sign he's destined to be exposed. Regardless of how the Sharks approach their goaltending situation moving forward, clearly they will need to think long and hard about the ramifications of their decisions.

Four Sharks-Vegas Game 7 nuggets you might not recall from wild night

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AP

Four Sharks-Vegas Game 7 nuggets you might not recall from wild night

Programming note: Watch the re-air of the Sharks' amazing Game 7 playoff comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights tonight at 9 p.m. PT on NBC Sports California.

The sound, and the silence that preceded it, was unforgettable.

Sharks fans at SAP Center roared like never before on April 23, 2019, when San Jose eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in an epic Game 7 of the teams' first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series. The sight of then-captain Joe Pavelski, bleeding and limp on the ice, emptied the arena of noise. The sight of the Sharks scoring four goals on the ensuing five-minute major penalty -- and, eventually, Barclay Goodrow's overtime winner -- easily filled it.

I reported on Game 7 from an auxiliary press box at SAP Center that night, sitting next to NBC Sports California's director of social engagement, Danny Pedroza. It was unlike any other game Danny, myself or anyone working in either press box that night covered before or after. 

Game 7, the payoff to a bitterly contested series in one of the NHL's best rivalries, included:

Those are just scratching the surface. With Game 7 set to re-air Monday at 6 p.m. PT on NBCSN as part of Hockey Week In America, here are four additional nuggets from the Sharks' wild win.

First time for everything

The Sharks had won Game 7s at home before beating the Golden Knights. They'd also won a Game 7 in overtime, eliminating the Calgary Flames a quarter-century before. They'd never done both at SAP Center, however, until Goodrow lit the lamp with 1:41 remaining in the extra session.

To be fair to the building formerly known as San Jose Arena, it was only the 42nd time in NHL history that a Game 7 would end in (at least one) OT. Plenty of buildings have never seen one, including the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens and Chicago Stadium.

Cody Eakin's major penalty, Pavelski's injury and the power play that followed make this Game 7 one of the most unique in NHL history. But the ending to the Sharks' win that night was pretty distinct, too.

The Sharks and Golden Knights shake hands after Barclay Goodrow's game-winning -- and series-clinching -- goal in overtime. Photo courtesy: Marcus White, NBC Sports California

Powerful play

The Sharks, prior to their historic outburst, had been abysmal on the power play against the Golden Knights. San Jose scored as many goals (four) on the bonkers third-period power play as it did in the six games preceding Game 7.

Shooting percentages often drive scoring droughts as much as anything else, and the Sharks' fallow power play was no different. They scored on 13.81 percent of their 5-on-4 shots during the 2018-19 regular season, and converted just 8 percent of theirs in the first six games of the series. The Sharks then scored on four of their 15 5-on-4 shots -- or, 26.67 percent -- in Game 7.

Sure, San Jose benefitted from the wrong call, but regression to the mean arguably helped the Sharks just as much.

The time is Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist skated just one, 30-second shift in the third period after the Sharks' four-goal power-play barrage. San Jose couldn't make do with a top-six hole in overtime following Pavelski's injury, however, so the Swedish winger filled Pavelski's place alongside Logan Couture and Timo Meier.

Couture, Meier and Nyquist were a dominant trio in overtime. They created three high-danger chances in just 4:33 together, matching the Kevin Labanc-Joe Thornton-Marcus Sorensen combo in nine fewer minutes together.

The Sharks completely controlled play during the extra session, and Nyquist's seamless inclusion on San Jose's top line was a huge reason why. If he didn't, Game 7 could have ended much differently.

[RELATED: Need a home workout? Use Sharks rookie Mario Ferraro's]

Sixth sense

Had the Golden Knights won Game 7, then-Vegas coach Gerard Gallant would have gotten far more credit for a bold tactical move on Jonathan Marchessault's game-tying goal.

Marchessault was one of six Golden Knights forwards on the ice with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury pulled, skating alongside Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Those six comprised the entirety of Vegas' top two forward lines at the time, and they pinned the Sharks in the defensive zone for the entirety of their 41 seconds together.

The Golden Knights' season was on the line, so desperation undoubtedly drove Gallant more than innovation. He deserves credit for creativity, however, especially in a sport that often relies on risk-averse strategies.

Here's hoping that, whenever the NHL starts its next season after the coronavirus pandemic is contained, Gallant's behind a team's bench.

Sharks' John Leonard hopes to follow in ex-roommate Mario Ferraro's footsteps

Sharks' John Leonard hopes to follow in ex-roommate Mario Ferraro's footsteps

UMass-Amherst has produced its fair share of NHL talent. Aside from longtime Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, the school's most prominent NHL alumni are defensemen, such as Colorado Avalanche phenom Cale Makar. The Sharks have found plenty of success with UMass defensemen, whether it be former blue-liners Justin Braun and Matt Irwin, or current rookie Mario Ferraro.

Ferraro, San Jose's second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, made the jump straight from college to the pros, and was arguably the brightest spot of the Sharks' season that has since been indefinitely paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The following year, San Jose went back to the UMass well in the 2018 draft, but this time used a sixth-round selection on forward John Leonard.

Fresh off of being the NCAA's leading goal-scorer and a Hobey Baker award finalist, Leonard officially agreed to join the Sharks franchise this past week, and he hopes to follow in his former college roommate's footsteps.

"The reason Mario was able to do that was just based off his work ethic and his drive to want to be great," Leonard said on an introductory conference call with reporters on Friday. "He's definitely someone I look up to. I was his roommate at school and we worked out together every day and trained together. His work ethic alone got him to where he is and I'm definitely going to try to do everything I can to follow that up."

Though Leonard has committed to San Jose, he has yet to officially sign, as he's waiting for clarification as to if and when the current season might resume. In the meantime, just like the rest of the NHLers currently practicing social distancing, he's doing his best to stay in shape.

Given that he used to work out with Ferraro in college, naturally, it begs the question as to whether or not Leonard has tuned into Ferraro's "quarantine" workouts that he is posting online. According to his former roommate, this is nothing new.

"Yeah, he was actually doing those at school, too," Leonard explained, "but they were a little bit more under the radar. Now they're open to the public and he loves it."

Ferraro surpassed even the wildest of expectations in his rookie season, and Leonard will certainly be challenged to do the same. If he's able to, however, it stands to reason that the former roommates might be reunited.

From the sounds of it, Leonard wouldn't mind -- though he might want to keep an eye on the pantry.

"The best thing about it is just his personality," Leonard said of rooming with Ferraro. "He's always in a good mood. He's a hilarious guy and he's just always fun to be around. Worst thing? I don't know. The guy ... he's always eating, so maybe he takes my food a little bit."

[RELATED: How COVID-19 impacts Sharks' salary cap, draft planning]

Ferraro already appears to be an important piece of the Sharks' core moving forward, and they're definitely hoping that Leonard can join him. 

If he impresses enough, he'll have his own room in no time.