Sharks

Sharks issue qualifying offers to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and five others

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Sharks issue qualifying offers to Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and five others

The Sharks took their first step towards re-signing restricted free agents Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.

San Jose issued qualifying offers to Meier, Labanc, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela and three others on Tuesday. That means the Sharks retain their rights as restricted free agents, and would be entitled to compensation if any of the seven players signed an offer sheet with another team. 

Now comes the hard part. The Sharks, who have just over $14.8 million in salary-cap space according to Cap Friendly, risk losing forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist as unrestricted free agents. Retaining all three and re-signing Meier, Labanc and Gambrell will be difficult if not impossible, even if the restricted trio sign bridge contracts. 

Meanwhile, the Sharks didn't issue qualifying offers to seven other restricted free agents. Defenseman Joakim Ryan and forward Rourke Chartier headline the group, all of whom can become unrestricted free agents. Tuesday marked the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers to RFAs, which would ensure they would receive compensation in the unlikely event of an offer sheet. Now, the Sharks won't receive any compensation should Chartier or Ryan sign elsewhere. 

Ryan, 26, played in 44 regular-season games last year as rookie blueliner Radim Simek seized a spot among the Sharks' top six defensemen. While Ryan didn't play between Jan. 23 and March 13, Simek's season-ending knee injury allowed Ryan to draw back into the lineup from mid-March onward. He suited up for every Stanley Cup playoff game, but played the fewest minutes per game of any of the team's defensemen (8:41) during the postseason. 

With fellow left-handed defensemen Mario Ferraro (2017 second-round pick), Jacob Middleton (made his NHL debut last year) and Tony Sund (35 points in 60 games in Finland last year) still on their entry-level contracts for next season, it's conceivable Ryan has played his last game in teal.

[RELATED: Can cap-strapped Sharks afford to keep Donskoi?]

Chartier, 23, made the team out of training camp and scored his first NHL goal on Oct. 28. He returned to the AHL's San Jose Barracuda for good on Jan. 13, but did not suit up after Feb. 22. Sommer told reporters shortly after that Chartier had "upper-body issues," and the forward was concussed twice in the previous season. 

It's possible that Ryan and/or Chartier re-signs. A year ago Tuesday, the Sharks did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Dylan DeMelo. San Jose re-signed DeMelo on July 7, before including him in the package to acquire defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. 

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Sharks legend Patrick Marleau might have had his last decent chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL restart. Hopefully he gets another opportunity, because it ain't happening this year.

The fifth-seeded Penguins were stunned and upset by the 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round after the Habs advanced to the playoffs with a 3-1 series victory on Friday. Pittsburgh lost Game 1 and was never able to recover, thanks in large part to Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Penguins scored just eight goals in the series, none of which were deposited by Marleau. In fact, the long-time Shark didn't record a single point across the four games. The Penguins acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for what is now confirmed to be a 2021 third-round draft pick, as San Jose wanted to give him an opportunity to check that last box on his career résumé.

Marleau now will become an unrestricted free agent. It has been widely presumed that if he indeed returns for a 23rd NHL season, it might come in a third go-around with the Sharks. San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference this season, but the Sharks' record was largely impacted by injuries and they certainly could return to the playoffs next year.

Really, it would only be fitting if Marleau ended his career in teal.

As for the Sharks, the qualifying round has gone nearly as well as they could have hoped for. Of the four Pacific Division teams that were involved, only the Edmonton Oilers failed to advance.

Due to the wacky 2020 NHL draft lottery, each team eliminated in the qualifying round has a 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick. Whichever team lands it is widely expected to use it on consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

So, there's an 87.5 percent chance -- barring trades -- that Lafreniere won't immediately end up in the Sharks' division.

Given the season they had, they'll take any win they can get.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

It's not clear when the Sharks will play next.

One star took a big step towards rejoining them when they do.

Tomas Hertl posted a video Wednesday on his Instagram of him skating in his native Czech Republic, writing that he was "[f]inally back" on the ice.

View this post on Instagram

Finally back 🏒 @filipchlapik @hertlik89

A post shared by Tomas Hertl (@hertlik48) on

Hertl, 26, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in January and missed the final 18 games of the Sharks' season before it was suspended -- and, ultimately, ended -- due to the coronavirus pandemic. The center injured his knee on Jan. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks, just four days after playing in his first All-Star Game. 

The 2012 first-round pick was one of the lone bright spots in the Sharks' otherwise dreary season, scoring 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. San Jose generated 56.76 percent of the expected goals and 54.38 percent of the high-danger chances with Hertl on the ice at full strength, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Hertl himself accounted for his highest rate of 5-on-5 expected goals (0.95 per hour) of any season other than his rookie year.

Hertl said in May that he expected to be ready to start the 2020-21 season, no matter when that is.

"I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away," Hertl said at the time. "My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”

[RELATED: Thornton reportedly could play in Switzerland before NHL season]

Hertl's return to the ice marks an offseason milestone for the forward, who's signed through 2022.

He and his wife, Aneta, announced last month that they're expecting a baby in November.