Sharks organizational review: Wingers remain great asset for San Jose


Sharks organizational review: Wingers remain great asset for San Jose

SAN JOSE -- When it comes to the Sharks' offensive arsenal, their wingers are some of their best assets. Even when the offense had trouble waking up, bench boss Peter DeBoer didn't hesitate to throw his lines into the blender and come up with a combo or two that could get the team going.

Moving forward, the wings should remain one of San Jose's best-stocked positions -- even if there are some changes in personnel during the offseason.

Staple wingers like Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane set the tone for the Sharks when it came to scoring this past season. Kane was particularly impressive in his first full season as a Shark, adding a dash of grit to San Jose's attack all while registering the first 30-goal season of his professional career. 

But the 2018-19 season also saw a few young wingers develop into key players. Timo Meier emerged as one of San Jose's key offensive weapons this past season, securing his power forward status with a spot on Logan Couture's wing right at the start of the 2018-19 campaign. Kevin Labanc also deserves some credit for the work he did after a rough stretch in the middle of the season, rallying to become a reliable depth player opposite Marcus Sorensen on Joe Thornton's line. Sorensen deserves props too, creating solid chemistry with Thornton and setting up some of No. 19's biggest goals of the season.

Of course, there's due to be some juggling on the wings in the offseason with different players' contracts ending. Meier, who can become a restricted free agent on July 1, is likely staying in San Jose. When asked about Meier's future with the team during exit interviews, Sharks GM Doug Wilson briefly mentioned he'd had discussions with Meier's agent, giving the impression the team sees him as a key piece of their future.  

But two UFA wingers in Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist make things a bit interesting.

Donskoi, who was part of the Sharks 2016 Western Conference-winning team, struggled in the latter part of this last regular season before rebounding for Team Teal in the playoffs. Nyquist was San Jose's big acquisition at the trade deadline, who didn't quite find his spot in the lineup until the playoffs and became a good fit on Couture's wing opposite Meier. As of the team's last media availability session of the season, neither player was privy to any contract talks taking place -- although both expressed a desire to stay in the South Bay.  

The biggest question San Jose has at the wing position revolves around Pavelski, who is set to be a UFA as well. No. 8's skill and leadership have become key cogs in the Sharks' successes, and this past season showed how much the Sharks miss him if he's injured and can't play. The captain expressed to the press he and his family want to stay in San Jose, although at there still don't seem to be any contract talks taking place. If the Sharks don't have a deal done with him before the market opens, it could make the start of free agency very interesting.

[RELATED: Pavelski optimistic about working out Sharks contract]

Regardless of what happens with the team's big free agents, the Sharks also have wingers coming up the pipeline via the Barracuda. Jeffrey Truchon-Viel didn't see any NHL time last season, but after being signed to the team this spring could get a look once camp opens up. Soon-to-be RFA Francis Perron, who San Jose acquired as part of the Erik Karlsson trade, is also a winger who could get a look with the big club after being on the Barracuda's best players last season, provided he stays with San Jose. 

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


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. 

Sharks hilariously troll Golden Knights, others with schedule release


Sharks hilariously troll Golden Knights, others with schedule release

The Sharks released their schedule for the 2019-20 season Tuesday morning, and whoever came up with the idea for the way in which it would be displayed on Twitter deserves a raise. Maybe two.

It was that good.

Alongside each of the 82 game dates listed in a was a song pairing someway related to the opponent for that particular matchup. Some titles were simply "dad joke" humor. Others were more savage with their intent.

And they didn't save the best for last.

Nope, the Sharks came out guns a blazing and didn't hold back. Their first two games of the 2019-20 season are against their new-ish rivals in the Vegas Golden Knights, whom San Jose eliminated in a wildly memorable seven-game first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. You might recall that in order to do so, the Sharks had to not only overcome a three-games-to-one series deficit, but also scored not one, not two, not three -- but FOUR! -- goals on a single power play in the third period of the decisive game.

It was quite possibly the greatest single-game comeback in NHL postseason history. As such, it's a rather painful memory for the Golden Knights, and the Sharks, well, didn't waste an opportunity to rub it in.

The first song title listed: "The Kill" by Thirty Seconds to Mars.

The second song title listed? "4 minutes" by Madonna.

The theme continued with the other two Sharks-Golden Knights matchups on the schedule. For their third encounter on Nov. 21, they chose "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba ("I get knocked down, but I get up again"). For the fourth and final meeting: "Bad Blood" by Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar.

The Sharks' sense of humor wasn't limited to their matchups with the Golden Knights, however. A scan of the playlist will reveal several hilarious pairings, many of which don't pull any punches.

For instance, "Welcome to the 60s" for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967.

"If I Could Turn Back Time" for a matchup with the longtime rival Los Angeles Kings, who have not won a playoff game since 2016. 

"Bills, Bills, Bills" for the first game against the Ottawa Senators. Gee, I wonder what that could be in reference to?

[RELATED: Why Karlsson skipped free agency to re-sign with Sharks]

You get the point. Now give that person a raise.