A year after signing a short-term deal to help the Sharks re-sign some key players, winger Kevin Labanc has long-term security in San Jose.
Labanc, a 24-year-old restricted free agent, signed a four-year contract with the Sharks on Saturday, the team announced. The contract reportedly has a $4.725 million cap hit, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, who was the first to report the Sharks were close to finalizing a deal.
"Kevin brings a rare level of offensive skill and creativity to our line-up and has established himself as a top-six forward in our league,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. “His Game 7 playoff performance last season (against the Vegas Golden Knights) is one of the most iconic moments in Sharks history and is a perfect example of the impact he can have on a hockey game. Kevin has shown a consistent ability to perform at a high level in both the regular season and the playoffs, and he will be a big part of our club in the coming years.”
Labanc signed a one-year, $1 million contract as a restricted free agent last summer with the Sharks facing a salary-cap crunch after re-signing defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million contract and winger Timo Meier to a four-year, $24 million deal. The winger struggled, as San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15 with a last-place finish in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
In 70 games, Labanc scored 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) and was a career-worst minus-33 while averaging a career-high 16:04. The Sharks controlled a positive share of shot attempts, scoring chances and expected goals when Labanc was on the ice in 5-on-5 situations, according to Natural Stat Trick, but goaltenders Aaron Dell and Martin Jones stopped just 88.4 percent of the shots they faced in Labanc's 903:24 of full-strength ice time.
Labanc scored a career-high 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) in 82 games during the 2018-19 season. The winger scored four points -- all on the same historic power play -- in the aforementioned Game 7 of San Jose's first-round series with Vegas, and nine points in total in 20 games during the Sharks' run to the Western Conference final.
“Banker adds some important ingredients to our lineup, especially with how we want to play going forward,” coach Bob Boughner said in the release. “His creativity makes him a player that other teams have to be aware of and we’re excited to see that on display at both 5-on-5 and on the power play.”
Labanc will become a free agent when his contract expires in 2024. Forwards Evander Kane, Logan Couture, as well as Karlsson and fellow defensemen Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, are the only current Sharks signed beyond then.