Sharks

Sharks re-sign young centers Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela to contracts

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USATSI/AP

Sharks re-sign young centers Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela to contracts

The Sharks continued to fill out their roster for next season Thursday, re-signing a pair of restricted free-agent forwards who could be in the mix for more playing time next season and reportedly locking up their remainder of their restricted free agents as well.

San Jose re-signed forwards Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela to two- and one-year contracts, respectively, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson announced Thursday. They reportedly also signed blue liners Nick DeSimone and Kyle Wood, as well as forward Maxim Letunov, according to Cap Friendly.

The Sharks did not disclose contract terms for Gambrell and Suomela, per club policy, but each deal reportedly is worth $700,000 annually, Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka reported. 

Gambrell's contract reportedly is a two-way deal -- meaning he will be played less if sent down to the minors -- in the first year and a one-way in the second, according to Fear the Fin's Sheng Peng. 

Gambrell, 22, played eight regular-season games with the Sharks in 2018-19 and two more in the playoffs. He scored his first NHL goal in Game 6 of the Western Conference final against the St. Louis Blues, and should be in the mix for a regular role on the fourth line following San Jose's offseason departures up front. A second-round pick in 2016, Gambrell also scored 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 40 games with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda. 

"Dylan had success at the AHL level with the Barracuda this past season, helping to lead the league's youngest team to another Calder Cup playoff berth," Wilson said in a statement. "He has continued to show us growth in all areas of his game, and, with his goal in Game 6 of the Western Conference final, has proven he can handle the pressure of the NHL. We look forward to his continued development, and the impact he will have on the Sharks."

Suomela, 25, ended training camp last season as the Sharks' presumptive third-line center, flanked by Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane. The Finnish forward played in 27 of the Sharks' first 30 games and scored eight points (three goals, five assists), but was sent down to the Barracuda on Dec. 11 and did not return to the NHL. He scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 34 AHL games. 

"Antti will be looking to build off of his first year in North America and we are excited to see where he takes his game this coming season," Wilson said in a statement. "He has shown that he can adjust his game to the smaller rink and we are looking forward to him competing for a spot on our NHL roster this season."

DeSimone, 24, is yet to make his NHL debut but scored 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 65 AHL games last season. The right-shooting defenseman, whom the Sharks signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, tied for sixth among AHL blue liners in points and seventh in goals, and was recalled in a couple of instances when the Sharks needed an extra defenseman due to injuries. The Sharks re-signed Tim Heed and signed Dalton Prout to one-year deals, so the right side of defense appears set behind Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. But, DeSimone could be in the mix for an in-season call-up.

Wood and Letunov, 23, both are coming off of their first seasons with the Barracuda. Both players were acquired in separate trades with the Arizona Coyotes, and Wood scored 35 points (six goals, 29 assists) from the Barracuda's blue line last season. Letunov, who played three seasons at the University of Connecticut, scored 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in his first pro season last year. 

[RELATED: Are rival Kings any better after free agency?]

With all players reportedly locked in for the league-minimum salary, the Sharks maintain salary-cap flexibility no matter how their training-camp competitions shake out. With each of his restricted free agents now under contract, Wilson can shift his attention to re-signing Joe Thornton. 

San Jose currently has just under $4.7 million remaining in cap space, according to Cap Friendly. Thornton's contract was worth $5 million last season, but Wilson said the 39-year-old was willing to take less than he ultimately signed for in each of the last two years if it meant the Sharks retained Patrick Marleau in 2017 and signed John Tavares in 2018. Marleau is now a free agent after the Carolina Hurricanes bought out the final year of his contract following a trade from the cap-crunched Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Sharks would appear to have enough room to reunite Marleau and Thornton. 

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

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AP

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

The Sharks' game on Thursday was, without a doubt, the Tomas Hertl show.

Hertl has been playing at a high level throughout San Jose's current winning streak and added to that successful stretch Thursday by leading San Jose's offense with two goals against the Ducks. But then Hertl left the game in the third period after colliding with Anaheim forward Sam Steel and appearing to injure his leg. Hertl never returned to the game and was not available for comment following the Sharks' 5-3 victory.

Even after the postgame media scrum, there was no update on Hertl's status. But it's no secret that the Sharks, who are finally digging themselves out of their early-season hole, can't afford to lose him from their forward attack.

"He's playing tremendous," Logan Couture told reporters at Honda Center after the game. "You hate to say you get used to it because he's playing at such an elite level. But the way he's been playing over the last two years, he's been at that level. And he's getting better."

The captain isn't mistaken. Hertl really came into his own last season after head coach Peter DeBoer moved him to the center position, taking on more responsibility and becoming an irreplaceable force in San Jose's offensive arsenal. Now, after a slow start to the season, the Czech forward has come alive once again with goals in five straight games and is currently leading his team with 21 points. His performance through the first two periods of Thursday's game perfectly showcased the mix of physicality, goal-scoring prowess and relentless drive that makes him a power forward to be reckoned with. Not to mention, he plays well with a number of players on his wing, and the current combination with Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow has been one of the best lines -- if not the best -- the Sharks have put out on the ice since the start of November.

That's precisely why San Jose can't afford to lose him as the team climbs its way out of the Pacific Division basement.

An injured Hertl wouldn't just force DeBoer to shuffle up his lines, as he also plays an important role on San Jose's special teams, which have been one of the team's saving graces since the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Sharks would be missing a major puzzle piece if Hertl has to miss any games.

The Sharks have a packed schedule through the end of November with a mix of competition to face, from hosting the lowly Detroit Red Wings this upcoming Saturday to visiting the rival Vegas Golden Knights next Thursday. Given how San Jose's season began, there is no opponent on the horizon that the Sharks can look past.

[RELATED: Three questions from fans after Sharks' six-game homestand]

If the injury Hertl sustained Thursday causes him to miss time, San Jose's job becomes that much more difficult.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

BOX SCORE

It wasn't the prettiest or most dominant game the Sharks have played this season. But heck, a win is a win.

San Jose spent a good chunk of Thursday's game trailing the Ducks on the scoreboard. But thanks to some late-game magic from the special teams, Team Teal was able to extend its winning streak to five games with a 5-3 victory over the SoCal rival.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Anaheim.

Stay strong, special teams

In all honesty, the Sharks didn't look like they had the upper hand for the majority of the game. But during a short span in the third period, San Jose completely took over the game thanks to a power-play goal from Brent Burns and a short-handed goal from Evander Kane within less than three minutes of each other.

San Jose's special teams have been one of the few bright spots through the slow start to the season. When facing an opposing goaltender that is on top of his game -- like John Gibson was for Anaheim on Thursday -- being able to score on both the man advantage and the penalty kill is huge.

Hertl power 

While three of the Sharks' four forward lines generated very little offense against the Ducks, Tomas Hertl and his linemates, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow, were on fire. Hertl had quite a night with two goals in the first 40 minutes, extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.

Hertl, Meier and Goodrow also accounted for the majority of San Jose's shots on goal within the first two periods. Although the rest of the offense began to come alive in the third, the Sharks still need to get to a point where all four lines play up to the level that the Hertl's played at against the Ducks.

Not-so-strong second 

Too often this season, the Sharks have followed up a strong first period with a sluggish second. Such was the case on Tuesday night, as San Jose grinded in the first period but came out in the second stanza flat-footed.

To make matters worse, the Sharks couldn't stay out of the penalty box in that period, which allowed Anaheim's dismal power play to find the back of the net. While the Sharks were able to tie the game back up before the period expired, they can't keep undoing all their hard work.