After three and a half seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, the 27-year old forward returns to the Bay Area.
Doug Wilson and his staff have built up a reputation for signing former Sharks, and this time it is Matt Nieto. He has not donned a teal jersey since the 2016-2017 season, where after 16 games that year, the Sharks placed him on waivers.
Last season the California native played 70 games with the Avalanche, scoring eight goals, thirteen assists, and 21 points. In the Edmonton bubble, Nieto contributed a pedestrian one goal and two assists.
While it is nice to see him rejoin the locker room, this is a questionable move by Team Teal. The Doug Wilson front office seems to be in a push and pull of whether to rebuild or retain the current core.
In previous articles, I personally have made it clear that the majority of the minutes should go to young talent.
However, in light of this recent signing and the signing of Patrick Marleau, it is hard to believe that the Sharks will move in that direction.
The only convincing move that San Jose has made to try to go in a younger direction is the acquisition of Ryan Donato.
This does not discredit Nieto’s talent and what he brings to the table, but the team needs to cultivate a new young core. A potential first-line of Meier–Hertl–Labanc going into the 2020-2021 season backs that case.
But this off-season is a series of contradictions, potentially letting old talent like Joe Thornton walk, but then bring back Nieto and Marleau.
It is no different in net, letting 31-year old Aaron Dell walk after a disappointing season but then trading for 34-year old Devan Dubnyk to be his replacement. However, that same day acquiring Donato in the most youth-oriented move of the offseason.
There is little clarity on the Sharks’ direction, but the general assumption is that they will not be a playoff team next season. What can be determined is that Nieto could be the alarm sound that Wilson is not as competent at his job as many may have thought.
Should the team miss the postseason this upcoming year, it will be the first time they do not qualify in back-to-back seasons since the 1996 and 1997 playoffs. The subsequent first-round pick after that stretch was the now returning Marleau.
Following that selection, San Jose only missed one out of 16 consecutive post-seasons between 1998 and 2013.
In 2021, for now, the Sharks have their own first-round selection in the upcoming draft. Provided that Team Teal has another down year, they might be lucky enough to get a top-5 pick.
That selection could be the turning point for the franchise, the same way Marleau was for the team’s early years. Every decision right now should be made in preparation to draft a high-quality prospect.
But it is an unlikely reality for the team in the immediate future based on the current trajectory. Matt Nieto is a great guy and a great player, but it is challenging to say that this move makes sense.