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.