The NHL season remains indefinitely paused due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and teams are preparing for the long-lasting changes it will cause. A huge revenue decrease is expected, and consequently, the 2020 free-agent market will be negatively impacted.
However, it might not be the worst thing for the Sharks.
Though the salary cap once was expected to significantly increase during the 2020 offseason, that no longer is the case. Earlier this month, TSN's Frankie Seravalli reported that teams are preparing as if the salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 million for next season, with the most optimistic of expectations being a $1 million increase. As such, he expects many free agents will have to accept less money on the open market than they had been anticipating -- the reason being, there just aren't many teams with a lot of cap space.
According to Spotrac, seven teams will enter the offseason with less than $1 million in available cap space, and only half the league will enter it with more than $3 million. Unless teams find a way to generate considerable cap space, most of them won't have much wiggle room.
The Sharks, however, might stand to benefit.
Spotrac estimates San Jose currently will enter the 2020 offseason with just over $8 million in available cap space, which ranks as the seventh-most in the NHL. CapFriendly, however, estimates the Sharks have even more upcoming cap space -- just under $15 million to be exact. Though both of those numbers don't paint the full picture -- some of it would be used to re-sign some of the Sharks' pending free agents -- whatever the actual number is, it's likely to be considerably more than what most other teams have available to spend.
For a team intent on expediting a rebuild, that could come in very handy.
The Sharks did well to reload their cupboard of draft picks at the trade deadline, and if combined with some smart free-agent signings, San Jose could get back to a level of contention after a one-year hiatus. Forwards Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc are the Sharks' most notable pending free agents, but neither will break the bank. Consequently, San Jose should be in the mix for some prominent free agents, who will have a tough decision to make.
Do they sign longer-term contracts for less money, or sacrifice that security for a shorter contract, but bigger payout? There surely will be plenty of free agents in each bucket, but one could argue both mentalities could lead a player to consider the Sharks. If they prioritize dollars over term, San Jose should be able to offer them more than most other teams. And if they opt for more security and a longer contract, the Sharks' mix of talent, experience and youth could be very attractive.
In any case, it will be a very important offseason for the Sharks, whenever it takes place. They have several areas to address, and in a weird way, the indefinite pause of the season might help them do that.