Sharks

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

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Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

For the fourth consecutive season, Peter DeBoer has guided the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thanks to the Colorado Avalanche's 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, the Sharks became the second team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff spot. The Calgary Flames (45-21-7), whom the Sharks (43-22-8) trail by three points for first place in the Pacific Division, were the first. 

The Sharks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round last year. If the playoffs started today, second-seeded San Jose would match up with third-seeded Vegas in the first round.

[RELATED: 'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far in future after loss to Vegas]

DeBoer took over as Sharks coach in 2015 after the franchise ended a 10-year run of making the playoffs. The Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season, but they haven't advanced past the second round since.

The franchise also seeks its first Pacific Division crown since the 2010-11 season. A division banner would be the first of DeBoer's career as an NHL head coach.

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

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Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

SAN JOSE -- There may not have been a Sharks' player who caught more flak from fans this past season than Martin Jones, as the starting goalie battled with consistency this season. Criticism of San Jose's goaltending continued as Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, didn't fare much better overall throughout the regular season. 

Then came the Sharks' 20-game playoff run, where Jones did a complete 180-degree turn after the Sharks went into a 3-1 hole against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. As if a switch had been flipped, Jones went from being a liability to being a key to getting Team Teal to the Western Conference Final. 

The question now is which version of Martin Jones will be in net for the Sharks next season -- or how San Jose's goaltending contingent, in general, is going to look and match up to the competition in the future.

Sure, wins are what counts at the end of the day and Jones was tied for third in the league with 36 regular season victories in this last campaign. But while his record improved to 36-19-5 over the previous season's 30-22-6, his save percentage dipped from .915 to .896. He also developed a habit of giving up the first goal of the game within the first few minutes of the first period, putting the rest of the team on their heels early into games.  

Nevertheless, it's pretty unlikely Jones is going anywhere. He's entering the second season of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2017, and even before his turnaround performance in the playoffs the team around him never stopped sticking up for him. When Jones struggled, his teammates continued to put their unwavering faith in him and insisted their defensive effort in front of him was to blame. For that faith to continue, however, Jones is going to have to bring some of his strong play from the playoffs into next season.

As for Jones' backup, Dell's future seems a bit more open. Even with two shutouts on the season, No. 30's numbers also took a dip during the 2018-19 campaign and he ended the regular season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. With just one year left on his current contract, San Jose could potentially use Dell as a trade piece.

[RELATED: What Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champs]

Neither of San Jose's Barracuda goalies, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar, saw any NHL time this past season. Although there's a possibility both get a look during camp ahead of next season after both posted better than .900 save percentages. Bibeau also already has two NHL games under his belt from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average. 

The Sharks further added to their goaltending contingent this spring when they signed Zachary Emond to an entry-level contract. Emond, 18, won't be making any appearances at the NHL level this season, although the Sharks have expressed satisfaction with how the sixth-round pick from the 2018 draft is developing. Look for Emond to be a goalie to come up the pipeline for the Sharks, especially if he has another strong season with his junior club. 

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson, Sharks working toward contract extension

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson, Sharks working toward contract extension

The Stanley Cup has been lifted, and the NHL's offseason officially is underway for all 31 teams. Before free agency begins, though, the Sharks reportedly are looking to make a splash by re-signing defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The team and the two-time Norris Trophy winner still are discussing a contract extension, a league source told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz on Thursday.

Kurz wrote that the Sharks "are prepared to offer" Karlsson an eight-year extension in the range of Drew Doughty's $88 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings. With an $11 million salary-cap hit, Doughty currently is the NHL's highest-paid defenseman.

Kurz reported that Karlsson and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson met for dinner Wednesday night in Santa Clara. A Facebook user in a Sharks fan group posted a picture with Karlsson and Wilson from the restaurant, and it later surfaced on the Sharks' fan-run subreddit.

Image courtesy: Reddit (R/SanJoseSharks)

The Sharks first acquired Karlsson, the Senators' longtime captain, in a blockbuster trade that sent four players and up to two draft picks to Ottawa on the eve of training camp. Karlsson played 53 games in his first season in San Jose, missing two because of a December suspension and 27 from January onward because of two separate groin injuries. Despite all that missed time, he scored 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) and posted a 59.22 percent 5-on-5 corsi-for percentage -- the best puck-possession mark among defenseman who played at least 750 minutes this season.

Karlsson clearly was hobbled during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he tied for second on San Jose with 16 postseason points (two goals, 14 assists). He didn't play in the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues after aggravating his groin in Game 4 and playing just 10:32 in Game 5.

The Sharks announced last week that Karlsson underwent successful groin surgery, and the defenseman was seen on crutches while attending Game 3 of the NBA Finals that same day. 

The 28-year-old defenseman has not played in 82 games in any of the last three regular seasons, and he also underwent surgery on his left foot after the 2017 postseason. That said, he still would be the best defenseman to hit unrestricted free agency if he and the Sharks cannot reach an agreement. Karlsson can interview with other teams beginning on June 23, but San Jose is the only one that can offer him an eight-year extension.

The latest Karlsson can sign such a deal is 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30, and he only would be able to sign a seven-year deal with a team -- including the Sharks -- beginning at noon ET the next day.

[RELATED: Inconsistent Sharks defense faces uncertain future]

The Sharks currently have just over $58 million in salary commitments for next season, giving them right around $25 million in cap space based on the cap's projected rise to $83 million for 2019-20. Karlsson is one of seven players who can become an unrestricted free agent, in a group that also includes wingers Joonas Donskoi, Gustav Nyquist and Joe Pavelski, as well as veteran center Joe Thornton.

Young wingers Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier likely are in line for raises as restricted free agents, giving Wilson plenty to think about as the offseason rolls along.