Mar 9, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun (61) pushes Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Spaling (13) against the wall as San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) controls the puck during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
It’s almost the end of July, and the NHL world is well asleep with an occasional need to turn from side-to-side adjusting to some free agent signings. The skeleton crew of this graveyard shift is primarily made up of two main groups – (1) prospects who work as hard as they can to extend their dreams and aspirations of playing in the NHL, and (2) the fans who try to grip onto any fresh little piece of news, rumors or predictions, as they starve for hockey.
We are not vying for a spot on the San Jose Sharks roster, instead eagerly awaiting what the new season will bring. Last week, we took a look at the forwards that will most likely make up the offensive prowess of the Sharks. Today, we take another look into our crystal ball as we preview the defensemen for the San Jose Sharks in the upcoming 2015-16 season.
The key addition of Paul Martin solidifies the Sharks defensive corps which will otherwise look quite similar to last season. Martin will likely slot somewhere in the top four, will be used extensively on the penalty kill, and will certainly provide an upgrade over Matt Irwin/Scott Hannan. At 34, Martin will be the fourth- oldest player on the team behind Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joel Ward. Martin’s age is not likely to be a concern for the upcoming season, but it may cause some issues towards the end of his four-year deal.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns will continue to lead the Sharks defense, with the latter one providing some much needed offensive assistance. Burns will likely be paired with Martin, at least that is the combination Peter DeBoer has in mind for now. Burns’ offensive style of play should complement a more defensive oriented Martin.
The Martin-Burns combination likely means Vlasic will partner up with Justin Braun who will get a chance to make up for a somewhat subpar season in 2014-15. Vlasic and Braun were the top two defensemen for the Sharks in terms of plus/minus the last two seasons.
Oct 10, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) is congratulated by forward Brent Burns (88) and defenseman Justin Braun (61) after scoring against Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (1) (not pictured) during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Braun will be challenged for the spot in the top four by Brenden Dillon who will be able to start his first full season with the Sharks, and prove he deserves his new 5-year contract that will keep him with the Sharks through the 2019-20 season.
At this point, the last spot on the Sharks’ defensive unit is up for grabs, and it will most likely be between Mirco Mueller and Matt Tennyson. Tennyson has the right handed shot, so if DeBoer wants to pair up lefties with righties, the preference may be given to the Tennyson. Mueller will be a year older and hopefully wiser, and unless he hits a sophomore slump, he should be a better defenseman than during the past season. The likes of Karl Stollery and Mark Cundari could challenge for the spot on the roster as well.
As per War-on-Ice, the Sharks have $23,480,000 in cap space committed to Burns, Martin, Vlasic, Braun, Dillon, Mueller, and Tennyson.
Tune in next week as we take a look at San Jose’s goaltending situation for the upcoming season.