Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Matt Nieto, F
Salary cap hit: $735,000, pending RFA
2015-16 year in review: Matt Nieto managed 17 points (8g, 9a) in 67 games, 10 fewer points than he posted in 2014-15 in 72 games. Nieto spent most of his time on the third line, skating more minutes with Patrick Marleau than anyone else.
In the playoffs Nieto didn’t do much offensively, with one goal and two assists for three points in 16 games. He missed eight games, including the entire Western Conference Final, with an upper body injury.
2016-17 outlook: There were high hopes for the former second round pick in 2011, but Nieto has just never been able to consistently produce. He still possesses great speed, but a weak shot and his inability to finish when he has prime scoring chances have hindered him throughout his three-year NHL career.
Nieto signed just a one-year contract extension with the Sharks in the offseason, so this could be his last chance to remain in teal. If he fails to stand out in training camp, the end could come early, as there are other younger players that are surely eyeing his spot. At this point, there’s no room for Nieto in the top nine, and I’m not sure he’s a fourth line player, either.
Nieto is just 23 years old, so there is still time for him to develop into a more effective NHL player. But considering he was rushed into the league by the Sharks, and his numbers were considerably lower last season than two years ago, Nieto strikes me as a player that could use a change of scenery. There should be another team out there willing to part with a mid-to-low round draft pick in exchange for his services, and his light salary would make him an easy player to move.