San Jose Sharks Fill Out Roster After Signing Matt Nieto


Matt Nieto re-signed a team-friendly contract with the San Jose Sharks Friday…

The San Jose Mercury News reported the re-signing of Matt Nieto Friday, July 15. His speed alone makes him worth the one-way contract for the 2016-17 NHL season at $735,000.

Nieto will still be a restricted free agent when the contract ends. The San Jose Sharks will thus hold the cards for the negotiations next summer, as well.

Nieto might not even dress often if forward Timo Meier makes the NHL roster. Still, the Sharks did well to get a capable player that still has potential upside for well under $1 million.

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After his contract, General Fanager lists San Jose as having just under $1 million left under the salary cap. However, those numbers are misleading.

For one, there is no active backup goalie counting towards the salary cap. For another, the Sharks are more likely to send Mirco Mueller down to the AHL Barracuda than carry him inactive. Likewise, another forward will probably be added.

It is unlikely that amount of cap room is enough for a solid backup goalie via free agency. Without a trade that sent some salary away, it is likely San Jose will start the 2016-17 NHL season with an internal solution.

Aaron Dell is generally considered to be ahead in his development. Yet believe it or not, Troy Grosenick has the advantage to make the Sharks.

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For one, he does have two games of NHL experience including a shutout to none of either for Dell. He also costs $25,000 less to carry. Most importantly, he has a one-way contract and would have to clear waivers to play in the AHL.

Besides, San Jose should want the better goalie playing more regularly. It is quite likely that Martin Jones will play every game that is not the other half of a back-to-back set, and there are only nine of them before Feb. 11. One of those is a matinee followed by an evening game (both at home) that may allow him to play both.

Martin Jones
The San Jose Sharks are likely to play goalie Martin Jones for most games of the 2016-17 NHL season: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

If Jones stays healthy, how much better would Dell be over eight games before a trade can be made? Is that worth stunting his development or giving up on Grosenick? Is it worth spending every bit of cap space to make that upgrade now with a veteran that may not be better?

Projecting Dell and Mueller to the AHL roster but Meier on the NHL one would leave the Sharks less than $400,000 in space—enough to handle some roster flexibility in the event of injuries. Micheal Haley makes more sense to keep as the 14th forward than Barclay Goodrow or Nikolay Goldobin (his best competition to make the roster) because of more versatility—from centering to being an enforcer—and less development lost from rarely playing.

Thus while Nieto might not be a great player, he was a great signing at that cap number because he sets the roster. Wilson has again assembled one of the most talented teams in the league.

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The nucleus is among the best. San Jose has three All-Star centers (one presumably playing wing), two potential All-Star defensemen and a potential All-Star goalie. Around them is a very deep supporting cast.

Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi, Patrick Marleau, Joel Ward, Mikkel Boedker and perhaps Meier are all legitimate scoring forwards. Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson are everyday players on the rise, with Nieto and Tommy Wingels probably filling the other active role(s).

On the blue line, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are as good as any team’s two best defensemen. Paul Martin and Justin Braun are elite defenders with some offensive skill, Brenden Dillon is a solid third-pair defensive defenseman and David Schlemko is capable on both ends of the ice.

Beyond that the Sharks have depth. There are no shortage of capable skaters to fill in.

Goodrow might be the best option if Meier is not on the roster. Goldobin will probably get called up if a scoring-line winger goes down. Both could probably make most NHL rosters, but the team’s talent goes much deeper than that—an invaluable asset.

San Jose has not used fewer than 18 forwards in any season under general manager Doug Wilson’s tenure, meaning recently re-signed Ryan Carpenter is sure to get playing time. Even Marcus Sorenson should get a look at some point, and all are capable.

In the majority of those 12 seasons, the Sharks have needed nine defensemen. With over half a season of NHL experience a piece, Dylan DeMelo can handle the seventh and Mueller the eighth spot on the blue-line depth chart. If Julius Bergman, Patrick McNally and Dan Kelly are all incapable of a spot role at the ninth spot, trades can be made or veterans signed for the minimum as band-aid solutions.

With multiple skaters capable of being everyday NHL players unable to get that chance with San Jose, there should be no need for making any changes before the 2016-17 NHL season. By the time the team knows it has a need at backup goalie or elsewhere, its expendable assets should also be apparent.