This file is the latest in THN.com’s ongoing breakdowns of every NHL team's off-season moves. In this file, we're examining the San Jose Sharks.
2021-22 Record: 32-37-13
Finish In The Pacific Division: 3rd
Salary Cap Space Available (As Per CapFriendly.com): $2.094 million
Restricted Free Agents: Jonah Gadjovich, F; Noah Gregor, F; Mario Ferraro, D
What The Sharks Have: A number of above-average veterans, including forwards Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Thomas Hertl, Nick Bonino, and defenseman Erik Karlsson; a plethora of veteran goalies, including James Reimer, Adin Hill, Aaron Dell and Kaapo Kahkonen; a prospects system that is decent, but that still needs more depth;
What The Sharks Need: More goals-for, and offense in general from their forwards and defense corps; someone to step up and adequately replace the minutes eaten up by freshly-traded star blueliner Brent Burns; a clear direction from new GM Mike Grier and head coach David Quinn;
What’s Realistic For The Sharks Next Season: At one point not so long ago, the Sharks were the model of playoff consistency; it`s true they didn't win the Stanley Cup under the direction of GM Doug Wilson, but year-in and year-out, San Jose was a highly-competitive bunch. However, things began to crumble for the Sharks three seasons ago, with San Jose bottoming out and finishing dead-last in the Pacific Division. Two years ago, they finished seventh in their division, and last year, they finished one point ahead of Anaheim for sixth spot in the Pacific.
Needless to say, this is not what Sharks fans have been accustomed to, so there have been meaningful repercussions. Wilson stepped down from his GM role and was replaced by well-respected hockey lifer Mike Grier, and last season’s head coach, Bob Boughner, was dismissed relatively recently and former Rangers bench boss David Quinn was hired.
This was not the only move Grier made after taking over: most notably, star blueliner Brent Burns was traded to Carolina in return for forward Steven Lorentz and a goalie prospect and draft pick. Burns had been a mainstay, so trading him was a sign Grier was being realistic about San Jose’s aging core, and was prepared to start breaking it up. For that reason, veterans like captain Logan Couture and center Nick Bonino are going to have to ask themselves tough questions about the direction of the Sharks, and whether they want to be part of it.
An odd pattern about Grier’s first season as GM: he’s signed a slew of goaltenders – none of them in their prime, or above-average NHL netminders – to short-term contracts. Perhaps Grier is stockpiling goalies in anticipation of another year in which the injury bug takes a big bite out of arguably the most crucial position in the game. But even then, it’s hard to see San Jose getting a king’s ransom for any of their current goalies.
For a team that doesn’t have a wealth of depth of talent or top prospects, the Sharks have surprisingly little cap space, and that won’t make Grier’s job easier. San Jose had the second-lowest goals-for total in the entire Western Conference; only the brutal Coyotes had fewer goals-for. Even if the Sharks see an improvement on offense, it’s not going to be enough to support an uneven defense corps and vault them into a playoff spot. Grier may one day construct a championship frontrunner, but it’s going to take some time to get there, and the time in between getting there and being where they are right now is going to be agonizing. More pain is ahead for this organization.