The Sharks’ roster could go through significant changes in the coming seasons, but San Jose ensured Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones will be part of the future by inking the pair to long-term deals.
The San Jose Sharks are going to look very different in the coming years, but it’s still going to be tricky to get one in their net. The franchise has signed defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to an eight-year extension worth an average of $7 million per season, while also locking down goalie Martin Jones for six more years with a cap hit of $5.7 million.
In Vlasic, San Jose has the NHL’s premier shutdown defender, a player who can use his skating or his smarts to bedevil the top snipers in the league. Jones, meanwhile, has become a very solid No. 1 goalie and thrown up some absolute gems in the playoffs.
The timing is very intriguing, since the Sharks did not know the futures of franchise stalwarts Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau yet. Of course, the Sharks have a lot of talent beyond those two – Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Norris trophy winner Brent Burns, for example – but this does seem like a crucial summer for the franchise. For Jones, there was no sense waiting on the contract decisions of others.
“This is where I want to be,” he said. “We want those guys back, but this was an easy decision for me.”
GM Doug Wilson originally acquired Jones via trade in the summer of 2015 from Boston, via Los Angeles. At the time, Jones was still in his NHL infancy, but the Sharks loved his pedigree and his history of success in both junior and the AHL.
“We thought he was coming into an age group where he could really step up,” Wilson said. “Ultimately, he plays big when it matters.”
Jones backstopped the Sharks to their first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup final in 2016 and the 27-year-old still has a lot of hockey in front of him. Luckily, he will also have Vlasic and Burns in front of him.
“That’s huge,” Jones said. “Our whole defense corps; I love playing behind those guys.”
For Vlasic, long-term contracts have always been his preference and his new pact will keep in San Jose for, most likely, the rest of his NHL career (both Jones and Vlasic have modified no-trade clauses on their new deals). Even if Thornton and Marleau come back, it will likely only be for another season or two, so there will be upheaval in the future, but also a nice core.
“We’re competitive every year and I don’t see that dropping off,” Vlasic said. “We have the foundation of good players with Pavelski and Couture and the young guys coming up.”
Graduating young talents such as Timo Meier, Danny O’Regan and Kevin Labanc into core weapons will be important as the years go by, but the safety blanket of Vlasic, Burns and Jones will give those forwards a greater chance to blossom (especially with Couture and Pavelski to lean on up front).
One of the hardest things for a franchise to do is evolve once its stars age out and that’s basically what San Jose is going through now with Thornton and Marleau. But with a focus on team defense and three cornerstones now locked up long-term in Burns, Vlasic and Jones, the Sharks have put themselves in a solid position to succeed. Perhaps, even, to get that elusive championship in the near future.