Marcus White

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

tierney.jpg
USATSI

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.

Everything you need to know about Sharks center Chris Tierney filing for arbitration

tierneypuckusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Everything you need to know about Sharks center Chris Tierney filing for arbitration

Sharks center Chris Tierney, a restricted free agent, filed for salary arbitration on Thursday, the NHLPA announced. San Jose can continue to negotiate a contract with a 24-year-old prior to an arbitration hearing, which would take place at some point between July 20 and August 4. 

An arbitration award would be issued no later than August 6, or 48 hours after the hearing. Such a contract can last no longer than two years, and the Sharks would decide the length of the deal, since San Jose did not opt for arbitration. 

The Sharks issued Tierney a qualifying offer worth $771,500 on June 25, meaning San Jose retained his exclusive negotiating rights and would have been allowed to match any offer sheet. Since Tierney filed for arbitration, he is no longer eligible to be signed to an offer sheet, and his qualifying offer will expire on July 15 at 2 p.m. PT.  

Last summer, Tierney signed his qualifying offer, a one-year deal worth $735,000. He responded with a career-high 40 points (17 goals and 23 assists), 29 of which came at even strength, tying for fifth and seventh on the team, respectively. He also played in all 82 games, and logged a career-high 16:00 per game.

Should Tierney and the Sharks make it to arbitration, he would become the first San Jose player to actually have a hearing. Previously, three Sharks filed for arbitration: Center Marcel Goc in 2008, winger T.J. Galiardi in 2012, and defenseman Jason Demers in 2014. San Jose settled with each player prior to a hearing.

Fresh off signing new contracts, Hertl and Thornton think they have more to give

Fresh off signing new contracts, Hertl and Thornton think they have more to give

Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton signed new contracts with the Sharks on Monday, albeit under much different circumstances. 

Hertl, who said he got engaged earlier this offseason, continued his "big summer" with a four-year deal that's reportedly worth $5.625 million annually. Thornton, 39, married, and coming off of his second knee surgery in as many seasons, returned to San Jose on a one-year deal, reportedly worth $5 million. Yet, in separate conference calls with reporters, both players were talking about the same thing.

Showing they have much more to give. 

"I think I took another step [in the playoffs], but I'm not done," Hertl told reporters. "I think I can still be a little bit better player and show I can score more goals and be even better for [the] team."

The 24-year-old is now one of six Sharks signed past 2020, and is coming off of the best season of his five-year career. He played 79 games for just the third time in his career, tied his career-high of 46 points (including a career-high 22 goals), and once again posted solid possession numbers.

Hertl added another six goals in the postseason, and was one of the best Sharks against the Anaheim Ducks in the first round and the Vegas Golden Knights in the second. 268 players played at least 50, five-on-five minutes in the postseason, and only nine scored primary points at a higher rate than the Czech forward (2.49 points per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. Nobody generated expected goals at a higher rate at even strength in the playoffs, either.

"I just think his best hockey's ahead of him," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said. "He truly wants to be a great player, and I think watching him in the playoffs this year, I think everybody saw him take that step that not only we expected, but he expects it of himself. He plays in all situations. He plays in all situations. He's a tough matchup, and you throw that in there with his great work ethic and his love for the game...He took a step this year to show what a horse and what a dominant player he can be, and we believe in that."

Wilson believes in Thornton, too. He said his expectations for Thornton are different than those of any other player, and repeatedly praised his work ethic. 

Thornton is also expecting a lot of himself. The veteran center said he feels strong -- in both surgically repaired knees -- and wants to continue to be a key contributor. 

"I'm way further along because [when I injured my left knee two years ago,] that was just a summer of rehab and then, boom, I'm back on the ice," Thornton said. "And I felt great, to be honest with you...I've been rehabbing [my right knee] since February. So, it feels great and feels strong as of this moment. I've still got another two months to get it stronger, which is a good feeling."

The lead time should help. Thornton scored 36 points in 47 games last year, but had 26 in his last 28 before injuring his right knee against the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 7. His 22.9 percent shooting percentage during that time was unsustainable (Thornton's a career 14 percent shooter), but Joe Pavelski's 8.7 percent over said span was due for some regression, too, as his hot finish to the season showed. So, it's reasonable that a now-healthy Thornton can still produce offensively.

Who Thornton plays with next season is ultimately up to head coach Peter DeBoer, but both he and Wilson spoke about the possibility of him playing alongside recently re-signed winger Evander Kane. If Hertl starts the season on the wing again, perhaps another reunion is in order. 

The Sharks are going to need the belief Hertl and Thornton have in themselves to result in on-ice production, especially after missing out on Toronto-bound John Tavares in free agency. With both players now officially back in the fold, San Jose's betting that it will.