Summer thoughts: the curious case of Patrick Marleau

How the mighty have fallen. Or is it just age?

For many years, Marleau, as the longest tenured Shark and a top offensive forward, was voted as the fan favorite each spring.  But in the last few seasons, he’s been surpassed by Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski in the fan voting.

His stats have been falling as well: from 70 points in 13-14 to less than 50 this past season (with his +/- going negative too). And he’s been moved from the top line(s) to the third line (but still on the top PP unit).

He is 36 today and has one more season left on a three-year $6,666,667 AAV contract.  The contract has a No Movement Clause (NMC), which means he cannot be traded nor demoted without his permission.

But there are many rumors swirling out there, and some fan dissatisfaction in his performance.  Not to mention the utter fall off in fan support for the entire team after losing to the Kings being up 3-0 in the opening round two years ago, and then missing the playoffs last year.

Now, I can argue that based on his past performance, the contract he signed THREE summers ago, and started two seasons ago, was justified.  But in the past two seasons, with the falling offensive production and two years of playoff flops/misses, today, he is not worth the contract he has.

And that’s probably one main reason for the fan dissatisfaction and rumors.  If he remained with good offensive numbers, or had a much (half?) smaller contract, there probably wouldn’t be such an outpouring of disappointment.  But if you have to focus displeasure on one player, Marleau might be the one guy who has disappointed the most.

There was a rumor last year that Marleau had asked to be traded.  It was never confirmed, but this year during the end of season interviews, Marleau expressed a desire to remain a Shark.

He still is producing, so a buyout probably isn’t worth it as you’d be down cap space and still have to replace his offense.

The problem with moving Marleau, NMC notwithstanding, is that the Sharks would probably have to add an asset (draft pick or prospect), and/or take back a “bad” contract, to move him. With the cap remaining somewhat flat this season, it makes it that much harder to do a deal.

So I think that Marleau will remain with the Sharks for the 2016-17 season.

The question then becomes: will he sign an extension and/or when might he retire?  That will be answered next summer.

Summer thoughts: RFAs

The Sharks had nine RFAs.  One goalie, one defenseman, and seven forwards.

But they only issued qualifying offers to four: Carpenter, DeMelo, Hertl, and Nieto

Carpenter is the only player with arbitration rights; but as he’s only played one NHL game, he probably doesn’t have a lot of klout to improve his deal by going to arbitration.  The other three are coming off  ELS contracts.

Hertl was a key piece of the top line with the Joes, providing the finishing touch; he absence was felt in the Stanley Cup Finals. Still no word on whether his knee/leg injury will require surgery. The big question will be bridge, or “long term” deal. He’s probably the only player that might warrant an offer sheet from another organization, but I think it doubtful (with so few actually being accepted and made public).

Nieto is a key piece of the bottom 6 and possesses some series wheels.  Probably 1-2 year bridge deal.

Carpenter finally got a chance to play in the NHL, and was around the team for the last three rounds of the playoffs.  Probably a bridge deal.

DeMelo was playing very well with Dillon, but sat on the sidelines for the playoffs.  Probably a bridge deal, but he’s real motivated to make the coaches (and hockey ops) staff(s) to forget about Polak.

Summer thoughts: forwards

In advance of free agency, what might the Sharks be looking to fill on the forward ranks?

The Sharks/Barracuda nominally have about 30 forwards under contract: 14 NHL, 14 AHL, and 2-4 in ECHL.

With three forward positions possible, lots of flexibility if a player can play multiple positions.  The Sharks’ strategy has to been to acquire the best player available, with lots of hockey sense, resulting in a plethora of centers (who end up playing wing and/or swap in/out of center and taking faceoffs).

21 – Currently signed through 6/30/17 (with position, years remaining, trade restrictions):

  • C Joe Pavelski (3 years, NTC)
  • C Joe Thornton (1 year, NMC)
  • F Joonas Donskoi (1 year)
  • C Logan Couture (3 years, NTC)
  • R Joel Ward (2 years, NTC)
  • C Chris Tierney (1 year)
  • C Patrick Marleau (1 year, NMC)
  • C Tommy Wingels (1 year)
  • C Melker Karlsson (1 year)
  • R Nikolay Goldobin (2 years)
  • R Barclay Goodrow (1 year)
  • C Nikita Jevpalovs (2 years)
  • C Rourke Chartier (3 years)
  • R Jonathon Martin (3 years)
  • R Alex Schoenborn (3 years)
  • R Marcus Sorensen (1 year)
  • L Adam Helewka (3 years)
  • R Kevin Labanc (3 years)
  • R Timo Meier (3 years)
  • C Daniel O’Regan (2 years)
  • L Alex Gallant (AHL, 1 year)

8 Pending UFAs

  • C Michael Haley
  • L Bryan Lerg (signed to play in Sweden)
  • L John McCarthy
  • L Frazer McLaren
  • C Nick Spaling
  • L Danius Zubrus
  • F Scott Timmins (AHL)
  • R Trevor Parks (AHL)

7 Pending RFAs (with arbitration rights indicated) — UPDATED with QOs

  • C Ryan Carpenter *
  • R Chris Crane *
  • R Petter Emmanuelson (signed to play in Sweden)
  • C Tomas Hertl
  • C Jeremy Langlois *
  • W Jeremy Morin *
  • W Matt Nieto

11 Unsigned prospects:

  • C Colin Blackwell (college grad – needs to be signed by 8/15 or becomes UFA)
  • C Jacob Jackson (3 years college)
  • L Emil Galimov (defected)
  • R Noah Rod
  • C Maxim Letunov (3 years college)
  • L Rudolfs Balcers
  • C Marcus Vela
  • C Dylan Gambrel (3 years college)
  • C Noah Gregor
  • C Manuel Wiederer
  • W Joachim Blichfield

So, the Sharks have about 9 additional forwards that need to be (re-)signed.  I think the Sharks will re-sign five of the 7 RFAs (all but Crane and Emmanuelsson, and maybe not Morin).  Of the 8 UFAs, I can see Haley and McCarthy (for AHL veteran leadership), plus Timmins and Parkes, re-signed.   Which maybe leaves 1-2 UFAs to be signed.

I can see Thornton and Marleau extended this summer (the latter for less than the former).

For the expansion draft, teams may protect up to 7 forwards.  Teams must expose at least two forwards who played 40 games in 16-17 or 70 games 15-16 through 16-17, signed through 17-18.  Players with (non-expiring) NMCs must be protected.

Expansion draft exempt forwards include: Crane, Donskoi, Doremus, Emmanuelson, Gallant, Goldobin, Jevpalovs, Chartier, Helewka, Labanc, J Martin, Meier, Schoenborn, Balcers, Vela, Gambrel, Gregor, Wiederer, Blichfield

I’m thinking the protected players will be:  Pavelski, Thornton, Marleau, Couture, Hertl (re-signed), Ward, Tierney.

This would leave exposed Wingels, Karlsson, Nieto (re-signed) and others.  Some players would require an extension to meet the NHL requirement of signed through 2017-18.

Lots of things to consider this summer as the organization prepares for 2016-17 season and the 2017 expansion draft.

Summer thoughts: defensemen

What roster moves might be wanted/needed this summer to bolster the blueline? What impact will the expansion draft have on the defensive depth?

Let’s look at the defensemen in the organization.

The Sharks/Barracuda nominally have about 20 D-men under contract: 7 in NHL, 7-8 in AHL and 1-6 in ECHL for depth call ups.

Sharks/Barracuda have the following blueliners under contract (in approximate depth chart order) for 2016-17 (with shooting side and year(s) remaining):

  • Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Left, 2 years; NTC)
  • Brent Burns (Right, 1 year)
  • Justin Braun (Right, 4 years)
  • Paul Martin (Left, 3 years)
  • Brendan Dillon (Left, 4 years)
  • Michael Brodzinski (Right, 3 years, ELS)
  • Mirco Mueller (Left, 1 year, ELS)
  • Julius Bergman (Right, 2 years, ELS)
  • Tim Heed (Right, 1 year, ELS)
  • Joakim Ryan (Left, 1 year, ELS)
  • Patrick McNally (Left, 1 year, ELS)
  • Cavan Fitzgerald (Left, 3 years, ELS)
  • Jeremy Roy (Right, QMJHL/ELS)

Pending UFAs/RFAs

  • Dylan DeMelo RFA (Right)
  • Roman Polak UFA (Right)
  • Karl Stollery UFA (Left)
  • Gus Young UFA/AHL (Left)
  • Rick Pinkston UFA/AHL (Left)
  • Mark Cundari UFA (Left) – signed in Europe
  • Danny Federico UFA/AHL (Left)
  • Matt Tennyson UFA (Right)

Unsigned draftees

  • Gage Ausmus (Left, ’17 grad)
  • Karlis Cukste (Left, ’20 grad)
  • Adam Parsells (Left, ’20 grad?)
  • Clifford Watson (Left, ’17 grad)

Draftee Alexis Vanier (Left) was not signed by 6/1 deadline.  Guessing that’s a case of too many lefties in the organization and he fell down the depth chart after getting a bonafide offer last spring.

NHL coach DeBoer likes to match left/right in pairs for his blue line.  Vlasic-Braun, Martin-Burns, Dillon-Polak were the pairs during the Stanley Cup Final.  Some lefties have played their off side, especially in the AHL.

I don’t see any buy out candidates. There are 12 defenseman signed I expect to play for the Sharks or Barracuda next season; Roy should be heading back to the Q as a 19 year old.  I expect the Sharks to re-sign DeMelo, and maybe Tennyson.  That would mean 2-5 blue liners should be signed from the pending UFA guys in the organization last year, and or free market for depth.  Stollery was a good veteran D for the Barracuda and I hope he’s re-signed.

In the expansion draft, the Sharks will be able to protect three defensemen. Teams have to expose (at least) two defensemen signed through 2017-18 (who played 40+ games in 15-16 or 70+ games in 14-15 and 15-16).

Defensemen exempt from expansion draft include: Ausmus, Watson, Cukste, Parsells; Bergman, McNally, Pinkston, Ryan; Brodzinski, Fitzgerald, Roy, Heed.  (Plus 2016 draftees and other prospects signed.)

Even though Burns is a pending UFA in advance of the expansion draft, it’s expected that he’ll be signed to an extension this summer.

My guess on who’s protected:  Vlasic, Burns, Braun

That would leave Martin and Dillon exposed.  Now, the Sharks may even want to ensure Mueller and DeMelo  stay in the organization by making a “future considerations” trade so that they would not be picked up.

The Sharks seem defensively well positioned for the 2016-17 season.  I see a handful of re-signings to bolster depth in the AHL and/or NHL.

Sharks 2016-17 schedule notes

The San Jose Sharks NHL schedule has been released.  (You can download the schedule, sync with your calendar, print, etc. at link.)

Sharks open at home (vs Kings) on October 12 and finish the season at home hosting the Flames.

There are 16 back-to-backs.  Two home-and-home; 3 away-home, 2 home-away and nine on the road.

The Sharks have 18 road trips (41 games), traveling 50.1k miles (think air miles only).  Average flight is 849 miles (min 6, max 2505).  Nine 1-game trips.  Three 2-game trips, and three 4-game trips. And one each 3-game, 5-game and 6-game trips.  (One weird trip:  Dallas-Minnesota-Dallas-Nashville — what’s with the going to same place twice on the same trip?)

Sharks have nineteen home stands.  Seven 1-game home stands.  Seven 2-game home stands. Three 3-game home stands.  One 5-game home stand and one 6-game home stand.

The Sharks average nearly 53 hours between games. Minimum time between games is 23 hours.  Maximum is 145.5 hours.


Summer thoughts: goalies

OK, we’re in the off season.  Time to think about what the roster moves might be.

First up: the goalies.

This is a key position for any team.  The Sharks historically have 5-6 goalies under contract for depth: 2 in NHL, 2 in AHL and 1-2 in ECHL.

Sharks/Barracuda have the following goalies under contract (in approximate depth chart order) for 2016-17 (with year(s) remaining):

  • Martin Jones (2 years left)
  • Troy Grosenick (1 year left)
  • Mantas Armalis (1 year ELS)
  • Jamie Murray (1 year, AHL)

In the depth chart (not signed):

  • Frederik Bergvik (defected)
  • John Kupsky (college; scheduled graduation ’19)
  • Mike Robinson (college; scheduled graduation ’20)

UFAs include:

  • James Reimer
  • Aaron Dell (group VI)

And Joel Rumpel (RFA).
UPDATE: Rumpel not QO’d

Sharks need to have one goalie (either signed through 2017-18 or pending RFA in 2018) exposed in the (anticipated) expansion draft next June, and can protect only one goalie.  Armalis, Kupsky and Robinson are all exempt from expansion draft (Rumpel too if he’s re-signed); technically, on an AHL deal Murray is not exempt, but for all practical purposes is.  Jones is the protected guy from my prospective.

Dell surpassed Grosenick in the depth chart this year.

There are no pending RFAs in 2018 based on the current depth chart, unless it’s exposing Rumpel or similar.  (Grosenick will be a UFA after his contract expires.)

My guess is that the Sharks re-sign Dell to a two year deal as their exposed goalie for the expansion draft (at a reasonable cap hit even).  He’d be pencilled in as Jones’ backup. Armalis and Grosenick would be in AHL and Murray in ECHL.

While Reimer might be an interesting re-signing, he’d probably demand near starter $$s and may prefer finding a starting role elsewhere.  (The Sharks might be able to trade his rights for a pick.)

Hitting a brick wall (SCF game 6 recap)

Well, the Sharks gave it their all, but fell short.  And the NHL season comes to an end.

Game 6 pregame thoughts

The Sharks wrote new history: winning the Western Conference, and two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.  They made it past the Kings (Beat LA), the Predators (Smashed Nash) and (Silenced) the Blues.

While sad for Shark fans, there are 28 other teams that wish they could have played this late into June.  For their accomplishment, they’ll be picking 29th in each round (that they have a pick), plus a few additional picks acquired along the way.

The Sharks were without Tomas Hertl (leg), and many others dealing with injuries (three days later and still waiting for full list of injuries and their severity). Lack of the offense Hertl provided was one of the keys to not winning in the fourth round (and only scoring first in one game). Hearing Nieto skated through SCF with broken ribs (ouch).

This season proved to the fans that this version of the Sharks is worth supporting.  After a few early non-sell out playoff games, the later rounds were full sell outs.  Now to see if the Tank returns to full capacity in the fall.  Even Bettman complimented the San Jose fans on their volume of sound in the Finals (as they did a pretty good job of drowning him out as he awarded the Stanley Cup).

Jones proved his worth – well beyond the first round pick.  And the fans have found a supportive chant for him (“Jonesy”). He has convinced folks that he is the real deal, so the pre-season question mark about him is replaced with a big check mark.

Couture really stepped up this post season, providing leadership and offense.  His addition after missing so much of the season with two significant injuries really helped the Sharks surprise the Western Conference with their tenacity and offense.What will the 2016-17 season hold?  A lot will depend on who’s in the lineup for the season opener (and the rest of the season). Will the Sharks participating in the World Cup come back to California tired or invigorated and ready for the regular season? And injuries, puck luck.  But I think you can fill in (in pen) making playoffs as an expectation.