Sharks

Why Stars goalie Ben Bishop is a cautionary tale for Martin Jones, Sharks

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Why Stars goalie Ben Bishop is a cautionary tale for Martin Jones, Sharks

Ben Bishop, who will start in net Saturday against the San Jose Sharks, was supposed to be the answer in Dallas.

The Stars, with a return to the playoffs on their minds, traded for Bishop’s negotiating rights and signed him to a six-year deal worth nearly $30 million. After two seasons of subpar goaltending from Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen seemingly sunk the team, Dallas wanted a proven option.

On paper, he seemed like an immediate upgrade. Entering this season, Bishop was 14th out of the 40 goalies that played at least 5000 minutes since 2013 in five-on-five save percentage (.927), according to Corsica Hockey.

Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, his predecessor and current backup, respectively, ranked 35th and 36th over that stretch.

With that in mind, Bishop’s contract may have even seemed like a bit of a bargain, considering 16 goalies carried a higher salary cap hit entering this season. Bishop’s been anything but this year.

He’s 25th in five-on-five save percentage (.917) among the 29 goalies that have played 1000 minutes this season, despite Dallas’ defensive improvement. Under Ken Hitchcock, the formerly run-and-gun Stars have been the league’s best team at suppressing shots (27.72 five-on-five shots against per 60 minutes) and shot attempts (52.01 five-on-five attempts against per 60 minutes).

There’s still plenty of time this season, and in his contract, for Bishop to turn things around. The problem is that goaltenders tend to get worse, not better, with age, and Bishop just turned 31.

Not all goalies are the same, and some prove to be legitimate outliers to aging curves, but Bishop’s decline this season should worry the Sharks before Martin Jones’ six-year contract extension kicks in next season.

Jones has been better than Bishop this season, but is still only 21st in five-on-five save percentage (.922) among the goalies that have played 1000 minutes. But of the 40 that played 5000 minutes over the last five years entering this season, Jones ranked 27th (.923).

Next season, Jones is set to have the 11th-highest salary cap hit among netminders (tied with Marc-Andre Fleury), and would receive the sixth-highest goalie salary in 2018-19. The Sharks will be paying for near-elite performance when Jones hasn’t necessarily reached that level.

Like Bishop, Jones’ postseason record speaks for itself, but his postseason sample size is decidedly smaller than his in the regular season. Basically, San Jose is betting on Jones to be the goalie he was in 1500 five-on-five postseason minutes over the last two years, as opposed to who he’s been over 7100 in the regular season since he joined the Sharks in 2015.

That doesn’t seem particularly prudent, especially as Dallas, arguably, had better reason to believe in Bishop long-term than San Jose did in Jones. Considering Bishop’s performance in the infancy of his own six-year deal, the Sharks have to wonder what comes next when Jones begins his.

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

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Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

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Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.