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Draft Preview: San Jose Sharks – On brink of rebuild

There’s still runway left for San Jose to land a title, but it’s not expansive.

The Sharks are getting perilously close to the outer rim of relevance as Stanley Cup contenders. Yes, they ranked among the top half-dozen teams vying for the title, but a late swoon raised eyebrows. And with so many free agents in their lineup and the likelihood a few of them aren’t retained, there’s an expectation the Sharks may join California cousins Anaheim and Los Angeles in rebuild mode within a few years.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: When the Sharks were flagging, their defense looked porous and prone to leaving big gaps in their own zone. That can be patched up with help from the forwards, but the truth is the defense corps is getting old. Brent Burns has hit 1,000 games, Marc-Edouard Vlasic will do so next season and Justin Braun is 32. If Erik Karlsson isn’t re-signed, this unit will need a mobile minute-muncher.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: The Sharks don’t have much in the system to replace the offense and leadership that Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have provided for so long. San Jose has drafted just five forwards in the first round of the past 11 drafts, and three of them (Charlie Coyle, Nikolay Goldobin, Josh Norris) have been traded.

CAP SITUATION: GM Doug Wilson has decisions to make with Karlsson, Thornton, Pavelski and Gustav Nyquist among seven UFAs who are bound for the open market. There’s about $25 million in cap space, but Wilson is keenly aware the average age of those four players is almost 34, and he doesn’t want to tie up too much term on an already-old roster. RFAs Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are in store for big raises.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Dylan Gambrell had a good rookie season in the AHL after three years with NCAA Denver. He’s not big, but he’s solid on the puck and in the faceoff circle. Ryan Merkley has a year of junior eligibility remaining, but after three seasons in the OHL, he could make the jump early if Karlsson moves on.

DID YOU KNOW: San Jose has drafted just 16 players in the past three drafts – five fewer than the average team – and has just four picks in each of the next two drafts.

(2000-2018 drafts)
Joe Pavelski, 205th, ’03
Christian Ehrhoff, 106th, ’01
Justin Braun, 201st, ’07
Nick Bonino, 173rd, ’07
Jason Demers, 186th, ’08
Ryane Clowe, 175th, ’01
Torrey Mitchell, 126th, ’04
Thomas Greiss, 94th, ’04
Kevin Labanc, 171st, ’14
Tommy Wingels, 177th, ’08

100+ NHL GAMES: 16


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