Sharks

Sharks counting on three prospects to fill Marleau void

Sharks counting on three prospects to fill Marleau void

SAN JOSE – There are nearly three full months between now and the start of the 2017-18 Sharks season, when San Jose hosts Philadelphia at SAP Center on Oct. 4. That leaves plenty of time for Sharks general manager Doug Wilson to try and fill the void left by Patrick Marleau, who signed a three-year contract with Toronto on Sunday, concluding his 19-year run with the organization.

Whether Wilson tries to sign ink of the remaining free agent forwards or attempts to make a trade could depend on how confident he and the other members of the Sharks’ brain trust are in the young players in the system. They will all have a better idea of their NHL-readiness after this week, as the annual prospects camp concludes on Friday.

The two forwards at camp with the best chance of making an impact would seem to be Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, who both spent long stretches with the NHL club as rookies last season with mixed results. The opening is there for at least one of them – along with Marcus Sorensen, who is not in camp – to try and make up some of Marleau’s 27 goals last season.

“It’s hard not to kind of pay attention (to Marleau leaving) because you see it all over social media,” Labanc said. “It’s just kind of blown up. You don’t really want to think about it too much. You just want to stick to your game. … You’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities that are open.”

Meier said: “Whatever happens, my goal stays the same. There might be some more openings, or less openings, but for me I just want to make the team. Obviously something like that, such a great player leaving – [but] I think it’s a great chance for young players to step up.”

It was this time last year when Meier, 20, was thought to have an inside track on making the opening night roster. In training camp, though, he came down with mononucleosis, and didn’t make his NHL debut until Dec. 16 in Montreal.

“It was tough. I felt it over the whole season,” Meier said.

Although he scored a goal in his first game at Bell Centre, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. Meier was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda for a stretch in February and March, and finished with a disappointing three goals and three assists for six points in 34 games.

While Meier registered an impressive 85 shots on goal (2.5 per game), Sharks coach Pete DeBoer indicated during the season that Meier’s shot selection needed some improvement. 

Meier said: “This season I didn’t score a lot of goals in the NHL, but I know if I keep working hard and get some chances and maybe be smarter about the shots I take, maybe more quality shots, and when I get the chance, put it in the net.”

Labanc, 21, found success with the Sharks quickly, posting seven goals and 12 points in his first 26 career NHL games. But then he went ice cold, going 28 straight games without a goal in between trips to the Barracuda. Unlike Meier, who played in five of the six first round playoff games, he didn’t suit up for the Edmonton series.

Naturally, he’s seeking “a little bit more consistency” this season.

“It was a good learning curve for me,” said Labanc, who was arguably the best player on the ice during the Sharks' prospect scrimmage at SAP Center on Thursday night. “This year I want to make the team, I want to prove myself, and I want to excel in every game that I play in.”

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

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Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

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Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.