Joakim Ryan

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

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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 free-agency decisions: Should Joakim Ryan stay or go?

Sharks free-agency decisions: Should Joakim Ryan stay or go?

To say the Sharks' blue line got banged up over last season is a bit of an understatement.

In addition to the long stretch of time Erik Karlsson missed with a groin injury, Marc-Edouard-Vlasic and Justin Braun were sidelined with their respective ailments, and Radim Simek had his stellar rookie season cut short by a knee injury that required surgery. 

When it came to filling the void left by San Jose's blueliners, Joakim Ryan was one Shark who was called upon to pencil into the lineup, ending the season with 44 regular-season games under his belt.

Now, Ryan is set to be a restricted free agent on July 1, and his future with the team -- like just about everyone else's on the free agent list -- is unclear. Here's a look at why he could stay in San Jose, and why he could be long gone.

Why he could stay

San Jose's defense is short a left-handed shot after trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesay. With Jacob Middleton being the only other left-hander coming up the pipeline, Ryan might be the Sharks' only readily-available defenseman to fill that void. If Ryan stays, it's possible he and Middleton could fight for the same job.

Ryan also has experience playing alongside a Norris Trophy-winner in Brent Burns. The Cornell product had the difficult task of being "on call" for most of the season and most of that time was spent paired up with the Wookiee. Ryan was also the only defenseman coach Peter DeBoer put into the lineup during the playoffs when Erik Karlsson aggravated his groin injury.

Why he could go

Remember, Ryan started off the regular season alongside Burns before essentially being knocked out of that spot by Simek. Even as DeBoer called on him to fill in other times throughout the season, the coach still said on multiple occasions that he wanted to see more out of the 26-year-old who ended the season with seven assists and at a minus-15.

It's also highly unlikely the Sharks are done moving personnel around this summer as they make room to accommodate high priority free agents set to hit the market on July 1. Even with the Braun trade freeing up some cap space, San Jose can't keep every RFA and UFA on its current list of 21 players.

Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc -- both RFAs -- are likely to get locked into contracts before Ryan is.

The verdict

Although the Braun trade appears to leave the door open for Ryan to stay and get another chance at holding down a spot in San Jose's starting lineup, there's no guarantee the Sharks sign him to a deal. The coaching staff needed more out of him this past season, and the team is likely looking to sign other RFAs first.

With that in mind, it's possible Ryan could be playing somewhere else next season.

[RELATED: Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks]

For those worried about where that leaves the Sharks' defense, keep in mind: San Jose has a history of making trades over the weekend of the draft, so moves to San Jose's defense could still be made even within the week.

There's no reason to think the Sharks are done piecing next season's defense together just yet. Where Ryan could fit into that mix, however, is difficult to determine.

What Erik Karlsson re-signing could mean for Sharks' defense next season

What Erik Karlsson re-signing could mean for Sharks' defense next season

The San Jose Sharks entered their offseason with a lot of questions about their future lineup. But they got a big look-in at next season now that Erik Karlsson officially is staying in Silicon Valley on an eight-year contract.

Given that Karlsson will enter his second year with the Sharks and already is accustomed to the team, there's potential for him to build on what he did last season -- and for San Jose's blue line to reach another level.

Although Karlsson was injured for a chunk of the 2018-19 campaign, his impact on Team Teal's entire game plan was evident. After taking the first two months of the season to get acclimated to his new team, Karlsson became a pivotal piece of San Jose's offensive assault, tallying 25 points (one goal, 24 assists) and a plus-16 rating between Dec. 7 and Jan. 8. Despite scoring only one goal during that stretch, Karlsson's ability to set up teammates from back in San Jose's defensive zone helped the Sharks dominate their opponents and register a 10-3-1 record during that span.

There's even more room for Karlsson's blue-line role to grow with Bob Boughner's return to San Jose's coaching staff. As Sharks fans know quite well, Boughner had a positive influence on the team when he was part of the staff just a few years back, namely in helping Brent Burns reach Norris Trophy-worthy potential.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson expanded on the potential for a successful Karlsson-Boughner relationship when he spoke to the media Monday, just after Karlsson's contract was made official.

"I talked to Bob Boughner this morning," Wilson said. "When he heard the news [about Karlsson's contract] he called me. Both he and Pete [DeBoer, the Sharks' coach] are extremely excited. They both said Erik Karlsson makes them better coaches."

Of course, some of these high expectations for next season also are dependent on Karlsson's health when next season starts. He underwent groin surgery on May 31, and it's a procedure that the University of Michigan deems as having a three-week recovery time and a six-week window before strenuous exercise is recommended.

When asked about his health Monday, Karlsson didn't have an exact timeline for when he would start skating over the summer, but he sounded optimistic that he'll be ready when the season opens in October.

"I'm in that process now, and it's going to take all summer long," he said about his rehabilitation. "I'm going to do everything I can and be as good as I can [be] for when the season starts. So far, no problem."

Keep in mind that signing Karlsson to an eight-year contract doesn't mean San Jose's blue line is a finished product. Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Radim Simek likely will be staples in the Sharks' D-corps next season. However, Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, who filled in for an injured Karlsson at different points during the season, appear headed for free agency in less than a month.

[RELATED: What Sharks' re-signing of EK65 means moving forward]

Plus, both Justin Braun and Karlsson's D-partner, Brenden Dillon, are coming up on the final years of their respective contracts, and could be used in offseason trades. Add NHL hopefuls from the Barracuda, and it's clear San Jose's defense is in for changes.

At least with Karlsson for sure playing in teal next season, there's already potential for the Sharks' blue line to be even better.