The Sharks will be without at least four contributors next season from their Western Conference champion team.
While many other NHL teams were busy on July 1 making free agent splashes and blockbuster trades, the San Jose Sharks have stayed relatively off the radar.
That doesn’t mean the Sharks didn’t get one step closer to winning a Stanley Cup, though, as they acquired two experienced players in Mikkel Boedker and David Schlemko who can help them reach that ultimate goal.
Unfortunately, the moves made it impossible for them to keep a few important pieces from this year’s Western Conference champion team due to the salary cap.
New team: Florida Panthers
Contract: 5 yrs, $17 million
Reimer may not have started a playoff game, but he was an integral part of the Sharks after the All-Star break. GM Doug Wilson made what turned out to be a good deal to acquire Reimer from the Maple Leafs, dealing a second-round pick in the 2017 draft for the netminder. Reimer was one of the best goalies in the NHL in his short, eight game stint in teal, stopping 195 of 208 shots faced (.938 save percentage), good for a spectacular 1.62 GAA and 6-2-0 record. He earned three shutouts in eight games in the crease and single-handedly won a few games toward the back end of the season.
He gave the team confidence and more importantly, wins, heading into the playoffs and played as a wonderful safety net if mistakes were made by skaters in the defensive zones. The Sharks will miss one of their best backup goaltenders in years and are now forced to find someone else to back up Jones, either in their organization or in the market for a cheap price.
New team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Contract: 1 yr, $ not disclosed (800K-$1.2M?)
Polak was another midseason acquisition from Toronto, and he spent almost all of his time in San Jose as a third-pairing defenseman. Bringing in another veteran surely didn’t hurt, and the Sharks would end up really needing his presence due to Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s injury which kept him out for the final four weeks of the season.
For the most part, Polak did as well as you could ask for an aging defenseman who has been mostly a career bottom-pairing blue-liner, but then again he wasn’t asked to do much. He was respectable in the regular season, although the playoffs showed his flaws on a bigger stage and exposed many of his defensive miscues, especially as the postseason wore on and he wore down.
Despite his mistakes, Polak is a physical player who imposes his body on opponents and is difficult to compete against along the glass and behind the net. He does little things that don’t show up on the stat-sheet, and the Maple Leafs may use him as a player to keep opponents at bay from getting physical with Toronto’s younger players… mostly Austin Matthews.
Unsigned UFA’s (99 percent not coming back):
The 38 year-old Zubrus was brought in at the beginning of the 2015-16 season to fill in as a fourth-line skater. He finished with seven points in 50 games, the lowest output of his storied 19-year career, and he notched one goal and one assist in 14 playoff games.
Unfortunately for Zubrus, this may have been his last run at a Stanley Cup as he is now 0-3 in Stanley Cup finals (Flyers, 1998 – Devils, 2012). His age finally caught up with him and his game substantially slowed him down. He took two bad penalties in the offensive zone in the final series against Pittsburgh, both of which led to a Penguins goal, and he could do little offensively against Pittsburgh’s speed.
His on ice production wasn’t great, but having another well-respected player in the locker room who has now played in 1,293 NHL games must have contributed to some of the younger skaters’ production and confidence. There’s no reason to bring him back, but hopefully the veteran can find a new team this summer and get another chance at a Cup if he doesn’t decide to retire.
Yet another Maple Leaf acquired mid-season, Spaling went from being a solid fourth-line addition in the regular season to somewhat of a liability during the Sharks run to the finals. After scoring seven points in 35 regular season games this season for the Leafs, Spaling scored six in just 23 regular season games in teal, and gave the team much needed forward depth for the home stretch of the campaign.
The playoffs were a different story. Spaling tallied a single point in 23 games played and was one of the more inconsistent Sharks. While former fourth-liner Chris Tierney elevated his play and earned himself a promotion to the second and third lines against Pittsburgh, Spaling and Tommy Wingels struggled and that really hurt San Jose’s chances because they were relying on nine forwards rather than all 12.
Since he is still only 27 years-old, Spaling figures to sign a one or two year deal with a team this summer and flirt with the fourth-line and possibly AHL. He scored 59 combined points in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons with Nashville and Pittsburgh, respectively, but he took a leap back this year, hence Wilson and the front office’s decision to let him go.