Sharks must fill Marleau void to make another run: 'Guys have got to step up'


Sharks must fill Marleau void to make another run: 'Guys have got to step up'

SAN JOSE -- It's been more than eight years since the San Jose Sharks last played a single game without Patrick Marleau on the ice, much less an entire season.

Marleau's departure from the Sharks to Toronto this offseason is the end of a two-decade era in San Jose. But with most of the same players back that helped San Jose make it to the Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago, the Sharks believe they still have the pieces in place to make another run at a title.

"Guys have got to step up," forward Logan Couture said. "Whether it's someone who had a down year last year who's a veteran or someone that has come up (from the minors) that's going to step into the NHL lineup and produce. We need someone to do that. We have to do it from within. Hopefully, guys will step up."

The Sharks took a step back last season after making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final the previous year before losing to Pittsburgh in six games. A late-season slump followed by key injuries to Couture and Joe Thornton helped lead to a six-game loss in the first round to Edmonton.

Marleau, the team's all-time leading scorer, then took his 27 goals to sign with the Maple Leafs. Instead of looking outside for a replacement, the Sharks are counting on filling that role with a mix of young players from the AHL and veterans who had down years last season.

"Our foundation is being able and being very comfortable in 2-1, 1-0 games. But you have to score in this league," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I don't think we're trying to get blood from a stone. I think we have scoring in here. We got to get it out."

Here are some things to watch this season:

JUMBO'S HEALTH: While Marleau left, Thornton returned at age 38 after signing an $8 million deal. Thornton had seven goals and 43 assists last season for his fewest points in an 82-game season since 1998-99. Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. He then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but believes he is even stronger this season.

POWERLESS PLAY: For years, San Jose's success depended heavily on a potent power play. With the play-making of Thornton and finishing skills of players like Joe Pavelski and Marleau, opposing teams often feared taking penalties. That changed last year when San Jose ranked 25th in the league at 16.7 percent, too often relying on Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns' big shot from the blue line. The Sharks will need to make some changes with Marleau gone and there could be some other tinkering as well.

"That's a big part of our offense," DeBoer said. "It's always been a weapon here. Two years ago it was a weapon. It was top in the league. We didn't do a lot differently last year from the year before. It didn't work."

BOUNCE BACK SEASONS: The Sharks are counting on rebound years from several players who struggled last season. Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Chris Tierney all played major roles in the 2016 Stanley Cup run but didn't back that up last year. Mikkel Boedker was supposed to add speed and another scoring threat to San Jose's attack but was limited to 10 goals and often had his ice time limited because of ineffectiveness.

TIMO TIME: San Jose is also counting on big contributions from several unproven young players, most notably forward Timo Meier, who had three goals in 34 games as a rookie. Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan also could provide the kind of offense from young players that helped carry Pittsburgh to the past two championships.

"It's up to them to really push through and break through," Pavelski said. "It's not one night or two nights here or there, it's a consistency thing. When that starts happening then you'll see guys take over on our team."

DOMINANT D: While the Sharks made no major additions this offseason, they did lock up two key pieces by signing goalie Martin Jones to a six-year, $34.5 million extension and shut-down defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to an eight-year, $56 million deal. Burns is also under contract through 2024-25, meaning the Sharks are in good shape on the back end for years. The one hole is on the third pair where David Schlemko left in the expansion draft. Dylan DeMelo will likely fill that role although Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed also could push for time.

Assessing how Sharks' two trades impact the rest of their offseason plans


Assessing how Sharks' two trades impact the rest of their offseason plans

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson got an early start to his morning on Tuesday, making a pair of deals before most of the team's fans had woken up. 

To recap: San Jose acquired winger Mike Hoffman, a pick, and a prospect from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a package centered around struggling forward Mikkel Boedker. Ottawa announced that deal at 4:58 a.m. PT.  The Sharks then flipped Hoffman and a pick to the Florida Panthers for a trio of draft selections, a trade that Florida officially announced at 7:17 a.m. PT. 

Here's what each team acquired after the dust settled:

Sharks get:

  • Defenseman Cody Donaghey (from Senators)
  • 2020 fifth-round pick (from Senators)
  • 2018 fourth-round pick (from Panthers)
  • 2018 fifth-round pick (from Panthers)
  • 2019 second-round pick (from Panthers)

Senators get (from Sharks):

  • Forward Mikkel Boedker
  • Defenseman Julis Bergman
  • 2020 sixth-round pick

Panthers get (from Sharks):

  • Forward Mike Hoffman
  • 2018 seventh-round pick 

So what does it all mean for the Sharks? Perhaps most importantly, trading Boedker's contract, who was just seeming to find his place in the lineup down the stretch this season after signing a four-year deal with the team two summers ago, clears an additional $4 million in salary cap space over the next two seasons (and $6 million in total salary).  With the cap set to rise to between $78 million and $82 million, San Jose would (as of now) have between $14.5 million and $18.5 million in cap space, and that's before considering the possibility that the team buys out Paul Martin's contract. 

Even if no other moves are made, the Sharks are in position to make a splash in free agency. According to The Sporting News' Evan Sporer, their maneuvering is designed to chase not one, but two of the biggest free-agent fish this summer. 

In his statement announcing the trades, Wilson said the deals "free up a substantial amount of cap space for internal and external player options in the coming months," and re-stocked on draft picks. It was a tidy bit of trading, as San Jose improved upon each of the selections it traded away, and now has seven picks in this year's draft after entering the day with just five. 

He also said that the deal opens a spot for the young forwards in the organization to challenge for ice time. Wilson specifically mentioned Kevin Labanc (who actually averaged more ice time than Boedker this season), playoff hero Marcus Sorensen, newly-signed European free agents Antti Suomela and Vincent Praplan, as well as rookies Dylan Gambrell and Max Letunov. 

Meanwhile, Hoffman joined Theo Fleury and Mark Messier in the "Sharks For A Few Hours" club, and has a new home following accusations that his girlfriend, Monica Caryk, harassed a teammate's wife. Last week, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Melinda Karlsson, wife of Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, had filed for an order of protection against Hoffman's girlfriend and accused her of an online harassment campaign throughout the season.

As a result, Hoffman's trade value plummeted from where it was at the trade deadline, according to ESPN's  Greg Wyshynski.

Pierre LeBrun told TSN that the trade was not a three-way deal, as the Sharks and Senators reportedly did not communicate about the subsequent trade with the Panthers. Wilson's no stranger to creatively facilitating some of the offseason's biggest deals, however. He acquired a pair of players and a pick from the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 so Atlanta could acquire Dustin Byfuglien from then-Stanley Cup champions Chicago, and  he also acquired goaltender Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins three years ago just days after the Los Angeles Kings shipped him (and a first-round pick) up to Boston for Milan Lucic.

In series of deals, Sharks trade Boedker, acquire four draft picks


In series of deals, Sharks trade Boedker, acquire four draft picks

While you were sleeping, the Sharks were busy making moves.

At 4:58am PT, the Ottawa Senators announced that they had acquired forward Mikkel Boedker, defenseman Julius Bergman and the Sharks' 2020 sixth round pick for forward Mike Hoffman, Ottawa's 2020 fifth round pick and defenseman Cody Donaghey.

Hoffman played in all 82 games this season and finished with 22 goals and 34 assists. But before he could even be fitted for a Sharks jersey, San Jose flipped Hoffman to the Florida Panthers along with their 2018 seventh round pick for Florida's 2019 second round pick, a 2018 fourth round pick (previously owned by Vegas) and Florida's 2018 fifth round pick.

By trading Boedker, the Sharks cleared $4 million in salary cap space.