As NHL free agency gets underway Wednesday, the Sharks certainly will be looking to make some moves under new general manager Mike Grier.
And with Brent Burns reportedly on his way out of San Jose as part of a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, could the Sharks now move Kevin Labanc?
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman seems to think so, reporting late Tuesday night that he has “heard” the Sharks could be hoping to trade the 26-year-old winger.
It’s a potential move that would make sense for San Jose. Labanc played in just 21 games in 2021-22 after a dislocated shoulder in December forced him to miss the rest of the season, and he still has two years left on his four-year, $18.9 million contract extension signed in 2020.
Labanc had only six points in those 21 games, and the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season saw him put up 28 points in 55 games.
Not quite the production that should accompany the team’s second-highest AAV contract at $4.275 million, nor the fourth highest-paid forward on the Sharks.
If a Labanc trade did happen, it would be the latest of recent moves under Grier’s new leadership. On Monday, the Sharks and scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. parted ways after five years.
Then on Tuesday, the Sharks saved $1.54 million under next season’s salary cap when they bought out the final year of Rudolfs Balcers’ two-year, $3.1 million contract.
And under their reported agreement with the Hurricanes for Burns, which was reported on Wednesday, San Jose will also see annual cap savings of over $5 million over the next three seasons after retaining 33 percent of the defenseman's contract.
With Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million AAV) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($7 million AAV) still on the books through 2025, San Jose will take all the savings they can get.
As they look to rebuild a Sharks roster that hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons, a Labanc trade could play an important part in the front office’s plan moving forward.