Sharks

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Salary cap constraints

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Salary cap constraints

Editor's Note: Now that the Blues and Capitals have gotten off the Stanley Cup schneid, there's arguably no NHL franchise more "due" to win a Cup than the Sharks. This week, NBC Sports California will examine the five biggest threats to San Jose's championship aspirations in the relatively near future. We continue with their salary cap constraints.

The Sharks' top priority this offseason was getting Erik Karlsson inked to a long-term contract.

Mission accomplished, but at a significant cost -- and I'm not just referring to the $92 million Karlsson will earn over the next eight seasons.

That isn't to say Karlsson isn't worth it. He most definitely is. During San Jose's most dominant stretches last season, he was unquestionably the Sharks' best player. Had he not suffered a debilitating groin injury that severely limited him at times during the postseason, it might have been San Jose winning its first Stanley Cup in franchise history, and not the St. Louis Blues.

Karlsson is worth the contract, and certainly would have received a similar offer -- if not larger -- on the open market. When healthy, he's the best defenseman in the game.

But in order to lock up the former Norris Trophy winner to a long-term deal, the Sharks had to face a harsh reality. It simply wasn't going to be possible to sign both Karlsson and former captain Joe Pavelski to market-rate contracts. In a salary-cap league, teams are forced to make tough choices.

Karlsson is in. Pavelski is out.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson doesn't just chase the big fish; he's quite adept at landing them. Every team wants to have star players, but in order to have them, you have to pay for 'em.

The Sharks have a lot of big fish. Karlsson, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane are all making at least $7 million per season for the next six years. That's a lot of money tied up in a small portion of the roster. Add in the contracts for Timo Meier (four years, $6 million AAV), Tomas Hertl (three years, $5.25 million AAV) and Martin Jones (five years, $5.75 million AAV), and you have a pretty good idea of San Jose's core for the foreseeable future.

And that's a major threat to the Sharks' ability to win a cup anytime soon.

San Jose has 21 players signed for the upcoming season with just over $4.6 million remaining in projected cap space, according to Cap Friendly. Moving forward, though, the Sharks won't have much wiggle room.

Outside of the aforementioned core, only Marcus Sorensen, Barclay Goodrow and Dylan Gambrell are signed beyond this coming season, and all three are due to become free agents the year after that. That means that San Jose currently has just 11 players under contract for 2020-21, with only $19.5 million remaining in projected cap space to fill out the rest of the roster. Looking ahead to 2021-22, the Sharks have only eight players under contract, with $22.625 million remaining in projected cap space.

[RELATED: Why looming NHL lockout is threat to Sharks' Cup hopes]

Wilson has done a tremendous job identifying undervalued lower-salaried players that have provided depth throughout so many playoff runs. He's also done well to acquire top-end talent through the draft, despite frequently being without a first-round pick. Given San Jose's salary situation, and the fact that the Sharks don't have a first, fourth or sixth-round pick in 2020, nor a second-round pick in 2021, it's essential that Wilson continues to be successful in those two areas in particular.

If he's not, the Sharks won't have the depth to compete for a Cup in the near future, no matter how many big fish they have.

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE - The funny thing about a winning streak is that, at the end of the day, the only thing that gets remembered is the win. But when a team loses, the performance tends to get picked apart.

But as the Sharks pointed out after the Edmonton Oilers snapped the team's six-game winning streak, San Jose consistently has had things to work on. Tuesday's loss showed they can't take advantage of a streak -- there's still a lot of work to do.

"I think it's a wakeup call for us right now," captain Logan Couture said. "You win six in a row and winning kind of masks when you're not playing your best if you find a way to win. I think the last couple of games that's the way the games have gone. We haven't played our game and we found a way to win, but tonight we got what we deserved."

This isn't to say that the Sharks didn't deserve to win any of the games during their last streak. Heck, their 2-1 shootout win over the Nashville Predators two weekends ago was easily the team's best game of the season. But through some of the other games during that stretch, a particular player or play is what kept them in the fight even when the opposition tried to make a comeback. 

After going into a 2-0 hole against the Oilers on Tuesday, those different ways to win weren't coming into play.

"In the last couple of games here that we were winning, we were finding ways to win all over the map," Brenden Dillon discussed. "Sometimes, we thought we deserved to win. Other nights we found a way whether we were good on special teams or we got some big saves from Jones, whatever it might have been."

It didn't help that the Oilers came for revenge after the Sharks defeated them 6-3 exactly one week before. Not only did Edmonton get scoring from throughout their forward lines, but Mikko Koskinen was on his A-game between the pipes.

"We knew after we beat them last week they were going to come hard today," Dillon said. "We were expecting a push from them. But it just seemed like they elevated their game and we kind of stayed the same.."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed. "I thought they came out heavier and harder than last time," he said of Edmonton. "So they obviously wanted to fix what went wrong last time for them. I thought they were much more engaged all night."

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' streak-snapping loss to Oilers]

Perhaps the Sharks should take a page out of the Oilers' book and rebound from a loss in their upcoming contest. The loss to Edmonton comes as San Jose gears up to face the Golden Knights for the first time since the Vegas squad put them in a 0-2-0 hole to start the season. 

If there is a time for the Sharks to rebound from a loss and get back to finding those different ways of winning, that time is now.

"We'd better play a lot better than we did tonight," Couture said, looking to the next game. "Or it could get ugly."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- All good things must come to an end, as the Sharks learned firsthand when their six-game winning streak ended Tuesday night.

San Jose bested the Edmonton Oilers a week ago, but the Sharks were clearly outmatched in the second meeting between the two teams. Connor McDavid and the Oilers took an early lead and never looked back, winning 5-2 and ending Team Teal's streak.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game.

Struggling to play from behind

To be honest, the Sharks have done a better job lately playing without the lead. They rallied from two deficits in a 5-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last week, and it looked as though they might do something similar Tuesday when Kevin Labanc's first-period goal cut the Oilers' lead to 2-1.

But after that, the Sharks had trouble adding to their tally.

Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen deserves some credit here. The Sharks continued to dominate the shot clock and keep him working, but the Edmonton netminder was in fine form as he froze 33 San Jose shots.

Where did the special teams go?

The Sharks' special-teams play was one of the few things they had going for them through the first month of the season. Heck, even when the power play went a little cold, the Sharks' penalty kill never stopped dominating.

Tuesday was a different story, though, as the Sharks failed to convert on the man-advantage and then gave up a power-play goal to the Oilers in the second stanza.

While the kill undoubtedly will recover after only giving up its second power-play goal on home ice this season, the Sharks' power play needs to get its mojo back. Some power-play success could have even helped the Sharks come back Tuesday night.

[RELATED: Sharks winger Kane pushes hockey at Oakland middle school]

Fourth line's inconsistency

The Sharks have had a problem finding good chemistry on their fourth line for a while now. There was a period where it looked like Dylan Gambrell had settled into his role at center and that maybe they could start generating some offense as a line, but they have yet to make anything happen lately. In fact, the shuffle of skaters has only continued continues.

Although coach Peter DeBoer said a few weeks back that he would like to not have to rotate players in and out of the lineup constantly, his fourth line still hasn't truly established itself or had any big impact on a game. The Sharks can’t expect to make any significant climb up the Pacific Division standings with a fourth line that can’t produce.