The San Jose Sharks re-signed Kevin Labanc to a four-year, $18.9 million contract.
The fifth-year forward took a team-friendly one-year, one million dollar contract last season. After betting on himself, Labanc’s reward is a $4.725 million AAV heading into next season.
Following the 2018-2019 season, San Jose showed a significant amount of promise for the upcoming year. Despite a bad Karlsson contract and losing captain Joe Pavelski in the off-season.
Kevin Labanc put up an impressive 17 goals, 39 assists, and 56 points that season, all of which are still career highs.
In the shortened 2019-2020 season, the New York native took a clear step back with 14 goals, 19 assists, and 33 points.
Following some of the roster changes and his new contract, the expectation is that he will be an effective first or second-line forward. Labanc made it clear during the Sharks media availability that he is aware of the expectations.
"“I just gambled on myself,” Labanc said. “It has nothing to do with ’18-19. I know I’m a top-six forward and I know that I can produce and be a good player and help this team out and help this team reach new heights this upcoming year.”"
The 24-year old does not lack confidence and has one of the biggest upsides for team teal. New head coach Bob Boughner believes that his 2020-2021 contributions will positively impact the franchise.
"“Banker adds some important ingredients to our lineup, especially with how we want to play going forward,” Boughner said. “His creativity makes him a player that other teams have to be aware of and we’re excited to see that at both five-on-five and on the power play.”"
Boughner is not the only one to praise Labanc and what he brings to the team. General manager Doug Wilson emphasized the motivation behind the forward’s extension with San Jose.
"“He’s a kid that responds when he falls,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen what he can do. This deal is about the ingredients moving forward, and we’re excited for him.”"
The pressure is on for both the Sharks and Labanc to prove that last season was a fluke and that this roster is still competitive. Another down year could reflect poorly on his current contract and stature with the team.
"“I look at pressure as a privilege,” Labanc said. “You work your whole life to get to this point in your career and the best way to handle pressure is by attacking it, and that’s what I plan on doing this season.”"
Team teal fans have seen this killer instinct before, including when he put four points in the magical game-seven victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Nevertheless, Labanc has to play at that level on a game-to-game basis, and Doug Wilson made that fact clear.
"“It’s about where you’re going,” Wilson said. “This is forecasting Labanc to be a 60-point scorer for the next four years.”"
Labanc is due to take the next step and enter his career’s prime. Whether he meets or fails to meet these expectations directly impacts the potential success the Sharks have going forward.