Sharks

Sharks notebook: Prospects quickly making impression at development camp

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Sharks notebook: Prospects quickly making impression at development camp

SAN JOSE -- How the Sharks' prospects perform during this week's development camp might not bear much weight on who makes the NHL roster in October.

If anything, it serves as more of a "getting to know you" event.

But San Jose's development camp scrimmage Wednesday did, however, give Sharks and Barracuda coaches an early look at new players and served as a check-in for prospects who've spent the past year with their junior teams.

Not to mention a sneak peek at how these players could look at the AHL and NHL levels.

"You can say what you want about it being a 'development' camp, but I think it's an evaluation also, of guys and where they're at and where you see them down the road," Barracuda coach Roy Sommer said after the scrimmage. "It gives you a pretty good picture of what the future looks like."

Even though Wednesday's scrimmage was just that, the future for some of San Jose's top prospects already is looking pretty bright.

Top forward prospects impressing

Forwards Sasha Chmelevski and Ivan Chekhovich already were two prospects the Sharks were excited to have in their system. 

That excitement was turned up a notch during Wednesday's scrimmage when the two, paired up with forward Lean Bergmann, exuded almost instantaneous chemistry.

"The scrimmage had a pretty good pace to it, but those two guys stood out," Sommer said. "Both of them I think will be really good players at the American League level."

Both skaters spent brief stints with the Barracuda since being drafted by San Jose, but they hadn't spent much on-ice time together before Wednesday.

Chmelevski acknowledged it was nice to find that on-ice dynamic so close to the start of camp.

"That was pretty much the first time we've played as a line," the 20-year-old center said. "Our chemistry was great today, and I really liked the way we played."

Russian winger Chekhovich is coming off a monster season for Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the QMJHL, and Southern California product Chmelevski recently tallied seven points for Team USA in the World Junior's competition.

Needless to say, this current go-round together at development camp is going a bit smoother than when they first played with the Barracuda a few years ago. 

"When we both came to the Barracuda a couple of years ago, we didn't really know what to expect," Chmelevski said. "Me and him, we really got along well, and obviously he's a great player. I think there's a lot of similarities to our game, and he's a good guy to be around. So, it's definitely fun reuniting with him in camp."

Both players already have created some buzz as being Barracuda players who could get a look with the big club. Chmelevski said his goal for the summer is to keep building on his game, no matter for which squad he plays.

"Regardless of where I do play this year, I just want to keep improving my game," Chmelevski added. "Just prove that I deserve to be here."

Ferraro receives tips from former teammate

Blueliner Mario Ferraro was paying close attention to the Sharks when they played the Avalanche in the second round of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. Not just because he was San Jose's second-round pick in the 2017 draft. But because his former University of Massachusetts-Amherst teammate, Cale Makar, was playing for Colorado.

When asked if he'd had any contact with Makar during that time, Ferraro laughed.

"During [the playoffs] I think he was pretty dialed in, so I didn't talk to him as much," he said with a grin. "But after, I asked him a few questions."

The left-handed defenseman admitted, however, that watching a teammate from afar play in the NHL gave him some perspective.

"It builds a lot of confidence in myself and my former teammates," Ferraro explained. "We see how a player we compete against every day in practice and compete with is doing well. It says, 'Hey, maybe I can be that guy as well. I can play at the next level.' "

That confidence already is shining through. Development camp is just a couple days old, but Ferraro already has made a big impression.

"One of the most high-energy guys you've ever seen, he does not have a bad day," Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr. enthusiastically said. "He's had a really good camp so far."

Sommer agreed: "Early in the scrimmage, I thought he kind of carried the play. Kind of a hard guy to play against."

On top of being fast and a playmaker, the prospect out of King City, Ontario, demonstrated in Wednesday's scrimmage that he isn't afraid to play a physical game -- a good quality for a player who will have the opportunity to start off training camp with veterans such as Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.

Merkley making progress

Ryan Merkley didn't register any points in the two games he played with the Barracuda this past season. Nevertheless, San Jose is happy with what it saw last year when checking in with the 2018 first-round draft pick.

"We were probably at 40 of his games this year," Wilson said. "Whenever we went to his games, we would talk to him afterward."

Merkley was considered a risky pick-up for San Jose, being noted as an offensively minded defenseman who needed to focus more on the defensive side of his game, But after ending the season with 71 points and a plus-four in 63 games, the Oakville, Ontario, native appears to be making the right adjustments.

"I thought I had a good start," Merkley said of his season, which started with the Guelph Storm before a mid-season trade to the Peterborough Petes. "In Guelph, I had good numbers -- thought I played well. I had a tough adjustment going into Peterborough to start, but I think I picked it up near the end there."

[RELATED: Sharks issue qualifying offers to six players]

While his regular season brought on some uncertainty because of being traded, Merkley said he felt good being at his second development camp in San Jose.

"It's more comfortable, for sure," Merkley said. "When you're coming in your first year, you're nervous, you don't know what to expect, how hard it is. But it certainly feels good being here for a second year."

How Sharks can use 2020 NHL trade deadline to upgrade goalie position

How Sharks can use 2020 NHL trade deadline to upgrade goalie position

It's no secret that the Sharks have suffered from below-average goaltending over the last two seasons. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning scored more goals than San Jose last year, and yet they were one of seven teams with a better goal differential than the Sharks, who finished with the worst cumulative save percentage in the NHL (.889). It's barely been any better in the current season, as the tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has posted a .894 cumulative save percentage thus far, ranking 29th out of 31 teams.

Making matters worse, there's no obvious solution on the horizon. Jones, 30, has another four years remaining on his contract at $5.7 million per after this season, and he has actually performed worse in 2019-20 than he did in 2018-19. His save percentage and goals-against average have both continued to move in the wrong direction, and the fact that Dell appears to have taken over the No. 1 job doesn't exactly bode well for his ability to turn things around.

Dell, on the other hand, has arguably been San Jose's biggest bright spot in what has been a thoroughly disappointing season, as his save percentage (.909) and GAA (.289) are nearly identical to the league averages. The problem is, he turns 31 in May and will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season. Chances are, Dell will get a more lucrative offer on the open market than San Jose will be able to afford.

Making the situation even direr, the Sharks currently don't have any other goalies in their system with NHL experience beyond Jones and Dell.

Of course, this all assumes San Jose maintains the status quo. We're only a few days away from the trade deadline, however, which has the potential to shake up the established order. There are numerous potential trade possibilities through which the Sharks could upgrade the goalie position, whether in the immediate or with eyes toward the future.

Robin Lehner

Lehner had a tremendous season (25-13-5) for the New York Islanders last year, but for whatever reason, he didn't receive the long-term offers he was looking for in free agency, so he ended up signing a one-year, $5 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The 28-year-old has outperformed that contract this season, and has played better than his 35-year-old counterpart Corey Crawford, who, like Lehner, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. One would naturally assume Chicago would prefer to keep the better, younger goalie if forced to choose between the two, but Crawford has a modified no-trade clause and a no-movement clause in his contract, which basically rules out that possibility.

The Blackhawks would have to be highly motivated to part with Lehner, but due to his age and track record, San Jose would have every reason to be very interested in him. The Sharks would have to give up something they would prefer to keep -- maybe a package centered around Kevin Labanc? -- but as they've been constantly reminded over the last 1.5 seasons, good goalies are worth the price.

Casey DeSmith, Daniel Vladar

In an effort to find Jones' replacement, perhaps San Jose should use the same strategy it took in acquiring him. Jones had been trapped behind Jonathan Quick throughout his time with the Los Angeles Kings, but revealed himself to be a quality starting goaltender -- temporarily, at least -- once he got an opportunity with the Sharks.

Like Jones when he was with the Kings, Casey DeSmith, 28, has played well over a brief cup of coffee in the NHL, but with the Pittsburgh Penguins having one of the top young goaltending tandems in the league this season in Tristan Jarry (24) and Matt Murray (25), his path to the No. 1 spot is extremely obstructed. DeSmith has posted a 2.77 GAA and .908 save percentage over 36 AHL games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this season, and carries a $1.25 million cap hit for the next two seasons after this one. He would cost significantly less to acquire than Lehner.

If the Sharks want to look further down the line and go even younger with their goaltending trade target, Daniel Vladar seems like a good prospect to focus on. The 22-year-old has posted a 1.79 GAA and .936 save percentage over 19 AHL games with the Providence Bruins this season, and with Tuukka Rask one of the leading candidates to win the Vezina Trophy, Vladar won't be taking over the top job with the Boston Bruins anytime soon.

Vladar is on the final year of his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season  -- the exact scenario Jones was in. With Jaroslav Halak proving to be a more-than-adequate backup to Rask, San Jose might be able to acquire Vladar on the relative cheap depending on Boston's plans for him.

[RELATED: Why Sharks probably could have done better in Dillon trade]

Henrik Lundqvist

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum of Vladar is soon-to-be 38-year-old Henrik Lundqvist. The legendary goalie appears to be at the tail end of his impressive tenure with the New York Rangers, as he is now both considerably older and arguably worse than Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin, who both appear to have passed him on the depth chart.

The Rangers have only been slightly better than the Sharks this season, so they, too, have every reason to look towards the future -- which Lundqvist doesn't figure into. The problem is, King Henrik is on the books for $8.5 million this season and the next before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

His peripheral stats this season are very similar to Jones, but he also has a much lengthier track record of success. Lundqvist is the NHL's current active leader with 184.1 goals saved above average throughout his career according to Hockey Reference, which ranks as the 14th-most all-time. Jones, on the other hand, is at -21.7 over his seven-year career and has never ranked in the top-20 in that category in any single season during his tenure with the Sharks.

Might the two sides consider swapping their expensive, yet underperforming netminders? From the Sharks' perspective, they would get out of the remaining four years on Jones' contract and only take back salary for next season. Lundqvist would also potentially upgrade the position for San Jose, and would fit right into the franchise's hopes to get back into contention next year. For New York, the appeal would be in getting younger and cheaper in the immediate, and adding whatever else the Sharks would likely need to involve in the trade to get a deal done.

While it's uncertain how the Sharks plan to address their goaltending situation moving forward, there is no question that they must do so. The status quo clearly isn't working, and the trade deadline offers an opportunity for San Jose to go in a new direction.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!

Brenden Dillon thanks Sharks fans, San Jose after trade to Capitals

Brenden Dillon thanks Sharks fans, San Jose after trade to Capitals

Before the Sharks trade that would send Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals took place on Tuesday, the defenseman was emotional talking to the media upon the possibility of leaving San Jose.

After the inevitable deal happened, Dillon had a moment to say what spending six seasons with the Sharks meant to him.

"First and foremost, the city here, the fan base has been unbelievable," Dillon told the media on Tuesday. "Doug (Wilson) from day one, he really believed in me as a player, bringing me in here." 

'I've learned so much, and I think when I came here -- you know, a 22, 23-year-old guy, just trying to build this game, I think for my second year being part of going to the Stanley Cup Finals, see the grind, see how hard it is to get there, you need a lot of things to go right, you need a lot of the special people, I think that's helped me."

Wilson, the Sharks' general manager, mirrored the emotions on having to go through with a trade of this magnitude. 

"Such an amazing teammate," Wilson said about Dillon. "Wonderful guy, right from the day he's come here and he's made people around him better, and how he's carried himself, his fiancĂ©e Emma -- very much appreciate everything they've done for this organization."

For Dillon, the Sharks received a 2020 second-round draft pick (Colorado's previously acquired by Washington) and a third-round draft pick in either 2020 or 2021 from the Caps.

The 29-year-old came to San Jose in a trade from the Dallas Stars in November of 2014. Across those six seasons with the Sharks, he appeared in 439 games, posting 88 points with 13 goals and 75 assists. He has played the ninth-most games in Sharks history, and has the seventh-most penalty minutes in franchise history.

Programming Note: The "2020 NHL Trade Deadline Show" is coming your way this Monday, Feb. 24 at 11:30am on the MyTeams app and on NBCSportsBayArea.com! How will the Sharks be impacted heading into the Noon deadline? Don’t miss it!