In an off-season filled with expiring contracts for the San Jose Sharks, Michael Haley is a player that cannot fly under the radar.
The 33 year old gritty fourth liner is entering yet another offseason with questions about who he will play for next season. For Doug Wilson and the rest of the San Jose Sharks front office, it is easy to forget about Haley when they have to worry about retaining key players like Pavelski, Meier, Labanc, Thornton, and many others. But contrary to popular belief, Michael Haley should suit up in teal next season as the Sharks look to make another run at the cup.
It is easy to look at Haley’s statistics from the past season and let him walk in favor of spending the relatively small amount of money he would command on someone else. But it is what he does that often goes unnoticed that makes him such a valuable player to this team.
Haley demonstrates a grit and physicality that the Sharks generally have seemed to lack in recent history. A level of physicality that can in fact draw comparisons to players like Pat Maroon and Oskar Sundqvist, who both went on to win a cup this season with the St.Louis Blues.
Michael Haley, who only suited up for 11 of the 20 games this postseason, contributed 31 hits at even strength. While this may seem insignificant, Haley has an energy that can show up in big moments. Visibly increasing the San Jose Sharks intensity with his physicality.
Haley is also an important locker room guy, even in his first game back with the Sharks against the Penguins. During a brawl when Crosby, one of the biggest names in sports went after Brenden Dillon. Haley was more than eager to start throwing punches his way, and clearly won his individual fight against Crosby. That is bold, that is the type of bold the Sharks need going forward.
Michael Haley during his time with San Jose this season, was one of the most vocal players on the entire roster. Calling out to players regularly while on the bench, whether it be to complement them or give them advice. This is a player who loves his team and loves his teammates, his intensity shows that both on and off the ice.
But that love he shows for his team got reciprocated by some of the biggest names in San Jose Sharks history. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, who also are unrestricted free agents, have high praise for Haley. When asked by Paul Gackle if they want Haley in San Jose; Pavelski said “100 percent. That’s correct, he’s been tremendous here in his role over the years and he can play. We believe he can play and give us positive minutes.” That’s some high praise from the captain and a player who carries a bit of weight within the organization.
Haley will never be a star first line forward, in all honesty the veteran has probably seen better days. But he matches the style of play that the Sharks need to evolve into. A style of play that took a last place Blues, and carried them all the way to the Stanley Cup. But with many impending free agents Wilson and company have to make the final call on his future with the Sharks, and the direction they want to take the team going forward.