The NHL free agent period begins on July 1, and the Sharks will have a bit of money to spend on some available players.
The NHL free agent period is only three days away, and Friday cannot come soon enough for NHL fans as they look to see which players might join their squads.
Luckily, San Jose Sharks fans saw their team play just a couple weeks ago in the Stanley Cup Final, but there is little time to relax in the NHL as team teal now must focus on re-signing a few key players and adding names to their roster.
On Monday, we discussed the current salary situation for the Sharks, who will probably have somewhere around $5 million to spend on available players. As of now, San Jose has just over $12 million of cap space, but restricted free agents Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto and Dylan DeMelo will in all likelihood return and eat up at least half of those dollars.
So with (hopefully) a handful of millions to spend after they reach deals with the players listed above, where should the Sharks use that money?
Fortunately the Sharks are much better off than most teams. They have a great goaltender in Martin Jones, a group of top four defensemen that is one of the best in the league and a fantastic top-nine forward bunch.
Brenden Dillon will return as a bottom pairing defenseman, and Tommy Wingels has one more year on his deal, figuring to be on the fourth line next season. UFA’s Roman Polak and fourth line forwards Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus are doubtful to return.
That leaves a possible sixth defenseman position open, two fourth-line forwards and the likely departure of backup goaltender James Reimer means the Sharks may have to be searching for a backup netminder again this summer. One can hope Reimer makes a return to the Bay Area after he did wonders in the regular season for the Sharks after joining the team from Toronto midseason, but he most likely will see higher offers elsewhere allowing him to be their starting goalie.
There’s hope top prospects like Mirco Mueller, Timo Meier, Nikolay Goldobin and Jeremy Roy can be consistent impact players for San Jose as soon as next season, but front offices in the NHL know their team needs depth, and they must be realists in that every top prospect may not reach expectations.
If all holds true to form, who are a few bottom-six forwards, bottom-pairing defensemen and a backup goaltender the Sharks could target in the market ? We know said players would have to be cheap and come to San Jose knowing that – barring injury – they’ll see minimal ice time, so here are some unrestricted free agents who fit the bill:
C, Dominic Moore: New York Rangers, 35, Predicted AAV: $1.4-1.9 million
How about a return to San Jose for the 35 year-old center? The Rangers are not expected to re-sign the veteran center after a 15-point season, but he showed he still has hockey left in the tank. He has 10 consecutive 15-plus point seasons as a mostly bottom six forward and is useful in penalty kill situations. He has played in 92 postseason games but is still searching for a Stanley Cup. He was with the Sharks back in 2012 scoring six points in 23 regular season contests and would give team teal a veteran center to command the fourth line. Adding Moore would make sense for the right price.
C, Riley Nash: Carolina Hurricanes, 27, Predicted AAV: $1.2-1.7 million
Nash was a former first-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 2007, but played college hockey instead and ended up joining the Carolina Hurricanes organization. He has become a career 20-30 point player and tallied 22 points last season for the ‘Canes, a fair amount for a player on the ice an average of less than 13 minutes per game. He actually had the fourth-best Corsi rating on his team last season. If the Sharks want to go a more younger route, Nash would be a decent option.
Patrick Wiercioch: Ottawa Senators, 25, Predicted AAV: $1.3-1.8 million
Wiercioch didn’t shine on the stat sheet this past season notching only five assists and failing to score a goal in 52 games. Those numbers are a far cry of his previous three seasons when the Burnaby, BC native combined for 55 points.
Despite the low scoring numbers, Wiercioch finished with a respectable plus-two rating for the Senators and one subpar year can’t discount a mostly successful career for the 25 year-old. Wiercioch has one of the higher ceilings of all defensemen on the market this summer and any team would love to have him as a bottom-pairing blue-liner.
Michal Jordan: Carolina Hurricanes, 25, Predicted AAV: $750K-1 million
No, not that Michael Jordan, however this one isn’t too bad himself. The 25 year-old Czech played in 36 games last year for the ‘Canes, scoring one goal with zero assists, and gave his team more than 15 minutes of ice time on average per game.
Don’t look too hard into the scoring numbers, Jordan doesn’t make much of an impact in the offensive zone, yet he is capable in his own zone and his impressive advanced metric numbers prove that. On a mediocre Hurricanes team he finished with a very good Corsi percentage of 52.3 and he gave the puck away only eight times during the campaign. This would be a cheap, low-risk move by GM Doug Wilson.
Jeff Zatkoff: Pittsburgh Penguins, 29, Predicted AAV: $1.3-2 million
If the Sharks do decide to search the market for net-minders, Zatkoff wouldn’t be a bad option. He was a member of and contributor for this year’s Stanley Cup winning squad and had a positive season as the Pens’ second/third string goalie, concluding the season with a .917 save percentage despite a poor goals against average of 2.79 and 4-7-1 record. He could come at a relatively cheap price and is someone who has shown throughout his short, three-year career that he is a very capable backup goaltender.
Carter Hutton: Nashville Predators, 30, Predicted AAV: $1.2-2.5 million
Hutton was a very late bloomer in the league, and aside from one game for the Blackhawks in the 2012-13 season, has spent his entire career backing up Pekka Rinne in Nashville. He was extremely effective last season while Rinne had a down year, posting a .918 save percentage, 2.33 GAA and 7-5-4 record.
Hutton’s value seems up in the air because a non-playoff team could acquire the goalie and give him more money than a team such as the Sharks. On the other end, if Hutton values winning more than money or ice time, a Cup contender could sign him for a cheaper price in trade for – hopefully – wins.
For a player who hasn’t made a ton of money by NHL standards in just over three years in the league, money and finally getting a starting gig could be more appealing for Hutton, but a team like San Jose would definitely love to have him behind Jones.