What options do Sharks have if they miss out on John Tavares?

What options do Sharks have if they miss out on John Tavares?

The start of free agency is days away, and the Sharks are awaiting the decision of prized free agent-to-be John Tavares. On Friday, The New York Islanders center will reportedly decide whether or not to return to the only franchise he’s ever known.

Should he decide to re-sign with the Islanders, or sign with one of the other four teams he met with at CAA headquarters during the interview period, San Jose will need to turn to other options in order to upgrade its top-six forwards. With nearly $19 million in salary cap space, the Sharks would have plenty of flexibility for their back-up plan(s). Let’s examine the other options the team would have up front this summer.

Free agency

Tavares isn’t the only player available, but he’s easily the best. He scored more points than any pending unrestricted free agent in 2017-18, and James van Riemsdyk is the only other player that scored more than 30 goals last year. 

If San Jose opts to try to sign a center, Paul Stastny and Tyler Bozak are the next best options. The 32-year-old Stastny has scored 40 or more points in each of the last four seasons, while Bozak likely would have accomplished the same had he not missed 25 games in 2015-16. Neither player is Tavares, but they also won’t command as much money or term. With the amount of long-term contracts on the Sharks’ books, that may be a blessing in disguise.

There are deeper options on the wing. Van Riemsdyk and James Neal are two of the 25 most prolific goal-scorers since 2013, while Michael Grabner, David Perron, and Thomas Vanek are intriguing to varying degrees. Rick Nash may not play next season, but can’t be ruled out given his history with Joe Thornton. 

When it comes to restricted free agency, the Sharks may not have the assets to sign a player to an offer sheet capable of bringing them to San Jose. The Sharks can only sign an offer sheet worth up to $4,059,322, which likely wouldn’t be enough to sign a difference maker.

The trade market

The trade market appears far more plentiful. Rumors flew during draft weekend that San Jose was close to acquiring Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, and the teams reportedly discussed a deal before the draft, according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz.

Pacioretty is far from the only name on the block. Artemi Panarin is not yet willing to sign an extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly shopping Jeff Skinner actively, and NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Boruk noted there were rumors of a potential Wayne Simmonds swap.

Of course, there’s also two-time Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson, whom the Sharks reportedly inquired about at the trade deadline. San Jose has the space to acquire a player, and even a bad contract alongside them in order to drive down the cost in terms of trade assets. 

Most of general manager Doug Wilson’s biggest splashes with the Sharks have come via the trade market, and the amount of players reportedly available may convince him to dip back into those waters.

Standing pat...for now

San Jose doesn’t have to necessarily do anything this summer. The Sharks were a 100-point team last season, and a healthy Joe Thornton in the lineup at the same time as Evander Kane should give them a boost. 

Re-signing restricted free agents Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney while otherwise maintaining salary cap space would give San Jose the flexibility to acquire a player (or two) in season, and perhaps at a lower cost in terms of trade assets than over the summer. Preserving it beyond the season would allow the Sharks to better complement an aging core with capable depth. 

Plus, free agency can still be an option in 2019. San Jose could, conceivably, have additional chances at acquiring Pacioretty, Panarin, and Skinner, depending who does and does not sign contract extensions. 

The Sharks would surely regret missing out on Tavares, who’s the best free agent available in recent memory. But next summer’s free-agent class is shaping up to be much deeper than this year’s, and landing one of the biggest fish then wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

Erik Karlsson did not play for the Sharks in Saturday's preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but he still managed to suit up. 

Karlsson took the ice in front of the fans at SAP Center as a Shark for the first time, all while wearing San Jose's newest uniform. He officially unveiled a black alternate jersey that the Sharks will wear in 13 home games this season. 

Teal is the only prominent accent color aside from some orange in the shark's eye. It looks like Martin Jones' new mask design offered a bit of a thematic preview of the Sharks' new look.  

The "Stealth" jersey also features a black-and-teal version of San Jose's original secondary logo, a cool nod to the franchise's history. Sharks co-president John Tortora told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in February that the logo would "start showing back up again."

In all, it's the third black jersey in the club's history, and the team's first alternate uniform since Adidas took over as the NHL's jersey manufacturer last season. 

The Sharks will wear the jersey in every Thursday night and Friday night home game -- as well as one Saturday. The full schedule for the uniform is as follows:

  • Thursday, Oct. 18 vs. Buffalo
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 vs. Columbus
  • Saturday, Nov. 3 vs. Philadelphia
  • Thursday, Nov. 15 vs. Toronto
  • Friday, Nov. 23 vs. Vancouver
  • Thursday, Dec. 13 vs. Dallas
  • Thursday, Dec. 20 vs. Winnipeg
  • Thursday, Dec. 27 vs. Anaheim
  • Thursday, Feb. 14 vs. Washington
  • Friday, March 1 vs. Colorado
  • Thursday, March 7 vs. Montreal
  • Thursday, March 14 vs. Florida
  • Thursday, March 28 vs. Chicago

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

SAN JOSE -- Since Peter DeBoer took over as Sharks coach ahead of the 2015-16 season, defenseman Brenden Dillon has played with plenty of partners. Seven defensive pairings have played 500 minutes of five-on-five hockey together in the regular season and playoffs during that stretch, according to Corsica Hockey, and Dillon has played for four. 

He’ll likely join a fifth this season. Dillon’s most regular partner over the last three seasons, Dylan DeMelo, now is in Ottawa after being traded to the Senators in the massive deal that brought two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to San Jose last week. 

Dillon, like the rest of the Sharks' defensive corps, doesn’t know who he’ll skate with to start the season. But, he said, his experience regularly playing alongside many different players will prove beneficial when he does.

“I think it’ll be to my advantage for sure,” Dillon said Friday at the Sharks' practice facility. “I’m definitely excited. We don’t really know what the lineups are going to kind of shake out as exactly. I think even during the regular season in past years, too, you might start out with a certain guy and finish the game having played with all five guys. … There’s so many different variables.”

Dillon skated with defensive prospect Jeremy Roy on Friday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic paired with Karlsson for the third consecutive practice. Justin Braun, Vlasic’s regular partner to the tune of nearly 3800 regular-season and playoff minutes over the last three years, skated with Burns. 

At least in the Braun and Burns’ case, that was due to availability. Burns’ most common defensive partner last season, Joakim Ryan, played in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks, and thus skated in the second session. 

Still, it’s possible Braun will regularly play with someone other than Vlasic for the first time in years. The eight-year veteran last played with someone else for more than 500 five-on-five minutes during the 2013-14 season, when he logged just under 505 such minutes with now-retired defenseman Brad Stuart. 

Braun said there won’t be a big learning curve if he plays with someone other than Vlasic, since he’s played spot minutes with just about everyone else (other than Karlsson). Braun said he’d hope to play a couple preseason games with a new partner, but that practice might be an ideal time to learn their tendencies and develop chemistry. 

“You can learn anywhere,” Braun said. “There’s drills set up where there’s a lot of forechecking. You might chip [the puck], and he’s not there, and you kind of talk about it after. That might be the best place since they’re not scoring goals on you where it counts.”

It might be awhile before DeBoer provides a glimpse into his potential pairings. Karlsson will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights at SAP Center, and the Sharks will not cut camp down to one group of up to 26 players (five forward lines, four defensive pairs, and three goaltenders) until Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After Saturday, San Jose will play three more preseason games before hosting Anaheim in the regular-season opener Oct. 3. Who Karlsson, and the rest of the defense, play with then is still to be determined, according to DeBoer. 

“We’ll see,” DeBoer said when asked if he envisioned Karlsson and Vlasic as a long-term possibility. “We’ve had a couple practices, but honestly I’ve got a bunch of different things rolling around in my head. The nice thing about getting [Karlsson] now is that it’s not a trade deadline where you’ve basically got six weeks to figure it out.”

DeBoer added that he hopes his pairings that open the season will stick together stick throughout the season, but he knows the nature of a long schedule will require changes. As Braun and Dillon both noted, that can happen during the ebb and flow of an individual game, too.

No matter who plays with whom, Dillon said he’s confident any new-look pairings will be able to become comfortable. 

“I think that’s just going to come with time,” Dillon said. “But, for us as a group, I think we can all cover for each other if we’re struggling a bit. At the same time, I think when we’re all going well, it’s going to be a tough group to beat.”