Sharks free-agency decisions: Should defenseman Tim Heed stay or go?

Sharks free-agency decisions: Should defenseman Tim Heed stay or go?

When it came to filling the void created by an injured Erik Karlsson, Tim Heed was often tasked with the job. The 28-year-old defenseman played a big role when the Sharks' blue line was riddled with injuries this past season, and put together the best regular-season campaign of his professional career.

Now, Heed is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Like everyone else on San Jose's long list of pending free agents, his future with the team isn't entirely clear.

Here's a look at why Tim Heed could still be playing for the Sharks next season, and why he could also be headed out the door.

Why he could stay

Of the blueliners who came off the bench this past season, Heed was the most productive with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 37 games played. He was also effective on the defensive side of the puck, ending the season with a plus-9 rating, which was tied for fourth best on the team with Timo Meier. WIth room to improve on last season, Heed could be a good option for San Jose, 

Sharks' head coach Peter DeBoer was complimentary of Heed when he penciled him into the lineup on Dec. 23 for the first time in a month. In that game, Heed opened up the scoring for the Sharks with a power-play goal and DeBoer extended Heed's ice time as the game wore on. Heed even took a couple of shifts alongside Norris Trophy candidate Brent Burns.

“He’s worked awful hard off the ice and practicing in order to wait for these opportunities," DeBoer said of Heed at the time. "You never know how they’re going to come. Is it an injury? Suspension? He did a good job tonight.”

If the Sharks need someone to come off the bench in the future, Heed is a good candidate.

Why he could go

While having someone like Heed in San Jose's arsenal can be beneficial, the Sharks may still be looking to move him in an effort to free up cap space.

The Sharks have already started the process of freeing up cap space by trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week. There will likely be more trades to come before the market opens on July 1 since the Sharks have 20 pending free agents outside of Heed who still don't have contracts.

If San Jose needs to free up more room to sign their big-name UFAs, Heed could be sent to another team.

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The verdict

Heed showed last season he can rise to the occasion when called upon and seems to fit in well with various other members of San Jose's blue line. If the Sharks are able to keep him, there's room for him to grow and continue helping the defense out. But with the Sharks likely not done making trades to gain space under the cap, Heed could have already played his last game in San Jose.

Sharks' Mario Ferraro reveals lesson learned in whirlwind rookie year

Sharks' Mario Ferraro reveals lesson learned in whirlwind rookie year

Mario Ferraro has surpassed the wildest of expectations in his rookie season with the Sharks, and it hasn't exactly been an uneventful one.

Since making the jump straight from college to the pros, the 21-year-old defenseman has witnessed a mid-season coaching change, the acquisition and eventual trading of a franchise legend, a seemingly endless string of serious injuries to roster cornerstones and -- oh yeah -- an indefinite pause of the NHL season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Not exactly your average rookie year.

Technically, Ferraro's rookie season hasn't come to an end -- at least not yet. Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that there currently is too much uncertainty for the league to be able to determine when the season might be able to resume, though he hopes to "know more by the end of April." In any case, even if San Jose was able to play out its remaining games, there are only 12 left. Considering the Sharks fell to the absolute bottom of the NHL standings right before the season was paused, an additional playoff run is entirely out of the question.

So, for all intents and purposes, we can't really consider Ferraro a rookie anymore. He has 61 career NHL games under his belt, so, really, that has been the case for a while.

Ferraro flew back to Toronto shortly before the Bay Area's shelter-in-place orders went into effect, and has been doing his best to stay in shape while living at his parents' house. In a recent discussion with NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil, he described an important lesson that was crucial to his development as a rookie.

"I think one small thing that's actually not small at all when you really look at it," Ferraro said, "is just preparation and that mentality of staying even-keel the whole year. What I mean by that is not getting too high on the highs or too low on the lows. You have so many games and so many important games that if you have a good game one night, you better forget about it because you gotta do the same thing the next night. Or, vice versa, if you play poorly, you really gotta forget about it and bounce back strong.

"And it's not just from game to game -- it's from shift to shift. You're playing in a league that has really fast players, strong players. You can get exposed, and it's going to happen. People are going to make mistakes. I'm a defenseman, so I feel like you're more bound to make mistakes ... they're more glaringly obvious. From a mental perspective, you really have to learn to just kind of say, OK, it happened. Move on. Let's get back to my game and play hard."

While Ferraro is correct that no player is exempt from making mistakes, he didn't have too many glaring errors throughout his first season in the NHL -- or at least, he did a good job covering them up. He earned the trust of the coaching staff and was rewarded with additional opportunities, which he proved capable of handling. Over the last eight games before the season was paused, Ferraro averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per night.

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In terms of mentors on the team, Ferraro specifically mentioned fellow defenseman Brent Burns as someone who has been tremendously helpful to him. And like seemingly everyone else in that locker room, Ferraro is a big fan of Joe Thornton. But ultimately, it has been a team effort in supporting Ferraro throughout his rookie year. It takes a village, after all.

"Nobody's counted out on this team," Ferraro explained. "They're all great guys. They've all taught me a ton this year, and we're really close. It has been a good learning curve for me."

While we're all focused on flattening the curve, it has long been evident that -- as a rookie -- Ferraro's wasn't very steep.

Gary Bettman says NHL examining 'all options' for coronavirus restart


Gary Bettman says NHL examining 'all options' for coronavirus restart

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday there is too much uncertainty for the league to determine a target date to return amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and that they hope to "know more by the end of April."

“From an NHL standpoint, we’re viewing all of our options," Bettman told NBC Sports' Mike Tirico on "Lunch Talk Live" on Tuesday (via Pro Hockey Talk). "We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light -- and the green light may not be crystal clear because there may still be some places in the [U.S. and Canada] where we can’t play and others places where you can.

"We’re looking at all options. Nothing’s been ruled in, nothing’s been ruled out. And it’s largely going to be determined what we do by how much time there is because we have next season to focus on as well.”

The NHL suspended its season on March 12, a day after the NBA did the same following Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert's positive coronavirus test. Eight NHL players -- three on the Colorado Avalanche and five on the Ottawa Senators -- have tested positive.

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Bettman said reports of the NHL looking into playing the remainder of its season at neutral sites -- including North Dakota, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman -- reflected how "extraordinarily competitive" the teams were as they tried to ensure a fair finish to the regular season. The commissioner said the "best thing" for the NHL would be to finish the season as they normally do, but Bettman said the league understands that might not be possible.

"[That’s] why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is," Bettman said. "Again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.”