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.)

Impact of potential expansion draft on Sharks

The General Managers sat down this week and came up with some basic rules for a potential expansion draft. The final rules still need to be negotiated with the NHLPA, so things are not yet fully determined.  One remaining question is whether No Trade and No Movement contracts must be protected (a player could waive his NTC/NMC to allow him to be exposed).

Teams will be able to protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie; or 8 skaters (any position) and a goalie. And they have to expose salaries equivalent to 25% minimum of cap hit.

Exemptions for the expansion draft are not the same group as waiver exemptions.  The groups exempt are unsigned draftees from the last two years (so even college kids drafted over two years ago would be exposed), and first and second year “pro” players.

Let’s start with those players exempt from the expansion draft:

  • Unsigned draftees from 2015 (G Mike Robinson, D Karlis Cukste, L Rudolfs Balcers, D Adam Parsells, C Marcus Vela, G John Kupsky) and 2016 (TBD)
  • First and second year “pro” players (IOW, rookies in 2015-16 and 2016-17); unclear if this includes players with European “pro” experience.
    • 2015-16 rookies (including AHL): Rumpel; Bergman, Cundari, McNally, Pinkston, Ryan; Arseneau, Aviani, Crane, Donskoi, Doremus, Emmanuelson, Gallant, Goldobin, Jevpalovs (assuming any RFAs are re-signed)
    • Projected 2016-17 rookies: Fitzgerald, Roy; Chartier, Helewka, Labanc, J Martin, Meier, Schoenborn (plus any further signees)

Now the Sharks have historically (see 2000 expansion draft when Lombardi made trades to protect exposed goalie) made a “Future Considerations” trade to expansion draft teams to protect 1-2 more players that have to be exposed (usually from among players exempt from the draft).

Protected list, my guess:

Goalie: Jones

Defense: Vlasic (NTC), Burns, Martin

Forwards: Pavelski (NTC), Thornton (NMC), Marleau (NMC), Couture (NTC), Ward (NTC), Hertl; and perhaps Karlsson.

(Note – players with expiring contracts could be acquired as UFAs, if not re-signed)

Cap casualties or trade bait?

It’s that time of year.  Not when young men dream of love, nor the winter weary of the blooming spring.  But the approach of the trade deadline and the preparation for what a team will do in the off season with re-signing and fitting under the cap.

The Sharks have 15 players currently on the NHL roster signed for next season.  $34.45m for 9 forwards, $21.93m for 5 defensemen and $3m for one goalie.  (Not including recent recalls.)  Of the seven expiring contracts, 3 are UFAs (Brown, Zubrus, Stalock), four are RFAs (Hertl, Nieto, Demelo, Tennyson) — perhaps deserving a raise. Expiring ELS deals for Hertl and Nieto.  (In the rest of the organization, six RFAs and six UFAs with expiring NHL contracts.  And six expiring AHL contracts.)

With the buyout of Burish on the books for one more season, the Sharks have $60m (less $200) allocated against the cap for the 2016-17 season, with five+ more contracts to (re-)sign and/or prospects to promote for the NHL roster.  The NHL minimum contract for 16-17 is $575k.

The 15-16 cap is $74.1m.  There is some speculation that the 16-17 cap could be reduced by up to $4m due to reduction in Canadian dollar which decreases revenue (HRR is calculated in US dollars). Which gives the Sharks about $10m for those five contracts/promotions.

Now comes the hard part: which players with expiring contracts will be retained/re-signed, and which won’t.   Plus who gets the $$s.  And, are there players with remaining term on their respective contracts that no longer fit in the Sharks roster? (Any players “out there” that the Sharks might want to acquire?)

First things first. Potential trade bait at the trade deadline. Which expiring contracts probably won’t be re-signed/retained?  Any players with term (or RFAs) that would make sense to trade? My partial list:

  • D Matt Tennyson (RFA) – a good player, a sentimental choice as the first Jr Shark to make the NHL Shark roster, but he’s been in the press box for more than half the games this season. UPDATE: With the injury 2/22 (likely a concussion), it’s unlikely he’ll be traded.  (Although it would have been weird as the AHL Barracuda are having his Bobblehead night 3/5.)
  • F Mike Brown (UFA) – utility 4th liner, pinch fighter. Changing culture means his role is disappearing.
  • F Ben Smith (UFA) – demoted to AHL, he has found his scoring touch, again, but just does not seem to fit into DeBoer’s plans.
  • G Al Stalock (UFA) – seems to have a confidence issue; good enough for a little work, but team has not been able to rely on him to take some load off Jones.
  • F Raffi Torres (UFA) – demoted to AHL, has lost a lot of speed and strength from multiple surgeries/procedures and no durability (playing perhaps 1 game in 3). Update: Traded 2/22 as part of cap differential for Polak/Spaling acquisition. Torres waived his NTC, but remains with the AHL Barracuda.
  • F Ben Smith (AHL, UFA) – has rediscovered his offense in the AHL after clearing waivers and being demoted. Does not seem to fit in with DeBoer’s coaching; could use a new home.
  • F Frazer McLaren (AHL, UFA) – has been out (what seems like months) since a fight. Concussion is suspected but has not been confirmed.
  • G Aaron Dell (AHL, UFA VI) – has actually outplayed Grosenick this season. Have to wonder if the organization might retain him instead.
  • G Troy Grosenick (AHL; one more year) – has been decent; might end up being a throw in if the Sharks acquire a goalie (otherwise seems to be penciled in as the NHL backup for 16-17).

Zubrus has played well under DeBoer, so I think it unlikely he’ll be traded (and could even get an extension).  Marleau has another year under contract; but I don’t think the Sharks would be able to get fair value nor replace the role/offense he brings. Hertl and Nieto are RFAs, but most likely to be re-signed. Demelo is coming off his ELS, and I expect him to be re-signed. Thornton leads the team in offense; no way to get fair value in a trade.

Stollery, Lerg, McCarthy, Haley have been good vets in the AHL.

Carpenter, Cundari, Emanuelsson, Doremus and Langlois have all played well and will probably be retained.

If the Sharks do make a trade, will it be to pare down the roster, or shore up a need?  Or both? Various pundits have postulated that the Sharks “need” more D depth (like 5th defenseman) and/or a better backup goalie.

UPDATE: Sharks acquired D Roman Polak and F Nick Spaling. Addresses their D depth and forward depth.

That trade may answer the depth issue, but not a better backup goalie.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson indicates that the organization plans to “replace” those two picks given away in the 2017 and 2018 draft for Polak and Spaling in the future.  So, even if the needs are filled, some of the “trade bait” players may wind up getting a few more draft picks (or prospects) down the road.

Sharks/Barracuda Training Camp, leading up to the Sharks season opener

It’s the last hours (days) of camp.

On Monday, the Sharks announced they had reassigned the nine players they had called up from the AHL Barracuda for the weekend, and assigned three players (Goldobin, Karlsson, Mueller) to the AHL Barracuda.  This leaves the team with 23 players on the roster (about $1.99M under the cap) which could be the season opening roster.

The Sharks also announced Joe Pavelski as the 12th captain in team history (9th “full time” captain), with Logan Couture and Joe Thornton as the assistant captains.

On the Barracuda side, 10 were released/assigned from camp (7 to ECHL Allen, including G Joel Rumpel and newly signed to two-way AHL deal Dan Federico; 3 to other ECHL teams).  That leaves Doremus, Helewka, and Timmins without contracts (announced).

Raffi Torres had his hearing Monday with the NHL Department of Player Safety for his Match Penalty from Saturday’s game in Anaheim over the hit of Silfverberg. (He waived an in-person hearing.) He was given a 41-game suspension (half a season). No word on if Torres or the Sharks will appeal the suspension or let it stand.

(How it impacts the Sharks roster/cap situation during a suspension…. Torres’ contract would count against the Sharks cap, with the funds going to the Player emergency fund.  Torres would take up one of the 23 NHL roster spots.  Now, if there was a situation where less than 18 skaters were healthy/able to play, the Sharks could do an emergency recall, exceeding the roster count for the duration of the emergency, if they remained under the salary cap.  So being able to only have 22 “active” players on the roster may not be as big a hardship as it might appear at first glance.)

(It is left to the reader of this blog to find reaction articles on Torres’ suspension.  While I do not condone his actions, neither will I further vilify him by sharing those articles.)

News of the half week

SJ Sharks

SJ Mercury News

Gackle Report

SF Chronicle

CSN Sharks

Puck Daddy

The Summer knows – Training Camp eve

One last caress
It’s time to dress
For Fall…

Recapping off season ponderings:

And it’s here!  Training camp. First on ice session will be Friday morning.

New coach DeBoer promises a clean slate, which is both good and bad.  If you had a bad season, new reasons to play your best.  If you’ve been at the top of the game, you have to prove yourself again.  And the new players to the organization have to show the coaching staff their abilities and how they’ll fit in.

So, where are we, what might the NHL roster look like at the start of the season?  Who’ll be in the AHL?  Or who won’t be playing pro with the Sharks?

To start, realize that the organization prides itself on merit promotions.  IOW, how you play will rank you in the depth chart, get you ice time and a NHL roster spot.

But if you’re an experienced NHL player on a one-way contract, what might that mean for your future with the organization if you’ve dropped down the depth chart?  The organization must consider the roster count (max 23), NHL contract count (max 50+CHL slideable) and the cap implications of any move. The cap for the upcoming season is $71.4m. This season, a player on a one-way contract gets a $925k cap exemption if assigned to the AHL; for example, if a player had a $1m contract, and was assigned to the AHL, there would be a residual $75k hit against the NHL cap; if the cap hit was $600k, there would be no residual NHL cap implications. And if a player has to be assigned to the AHL, is he exempt from waivers, or might he be picked up by another NHL team?

Here are some cap numbers from General Fanager.  And here is my determination of players’ waiver exemption status.

Another wrinkle is the handful of CHL-eligible players who will turn 20 by the end of the calendar year. They can be signed by the NHL Sharks, and play in either the NHL or AHL.  Or their rights will be retained until at least next spring if unsigned and returned to their respective CHL teams, as an “over ager”. These include F Helewka (’15 draftee), F Labanc (’14 draftee), F Schoenborn (’14 draftee) and D Vanier (’14 draftee).  (Update:  All but Helewka returned to their respective junior team 9/17. Sharks retain their rights until June 1, 2016; so if the organization decides to sign them it will be by then.)

There are also two signed draftees, Chartier and Meier, than can only play in the NHL or have to return to the CHL (and their contracts slide).

The organization has indicated that players in the NHL will play.  So, that if a young player isn’t getting a lot of ice time if on the NHL roster, he may end up in the AHL for playing time.

So, who “will” make the NHL squad?  Who “might” make the NHL roster?

My guess?

Goalies: Jones, Stalock
Unless Grosenick vastly outplays Stalock, this should be the season starting pair.

Defense: Braun, Burns, Dillon, Martin, Mueller, Tennyson, Vlasic  Mueller (still on ELS) has multiple years of waiver exemption remaining.  Tennyson would have to clear waivers to play in AHL. DeMelo is mentioned as someone who might make the team.

Forwards: Brown, Couture, Goodrow, Hertl, Karlsson, Marleau, Nieto, Pavelski, Smith, Thornton, Tierney, Torres, Ward, Wingels
Hertl, Karlsson and Nieto are nearly out of waiver exemption. Goodrow and Tierney have some waiver years left. A few of the 3rd/4th liners might end up plying their trade elsewhere (potentially Brown, Nieto, Smith, Torres).  Donskoi has been a revelation and I believe will unseat someone in the depth chart. Goldobin seems to be penciled in for the NHL roster.

Definitely a year where the competition will be fierce for a NHL roster spot.  And well worth keeping an eye on what’s happening at training camp.

Training Camp D-day (150917)

News of the day. Camp roster reduced. “Old” news from last week’s events being released.  Former Shark news.

SJ Sharks: Sharks Reduce Training Camp Roster by Eight
Down to 55.  3 TO players, 5 CHL-eligible players remain (3 with contracts, 2 without).

SJ Mercury News

NHL.com: Unmasked: Goalie symposium ‘think tank’ for coaches
Hedberg and Nabokov participated

Sportsnet

NBC/PHT: Brad Winchester announces retirement
Former Shark

And other former Shark news: Bernier signs one year deal with Islanders. Heatley signs in DEL.

CSN Sharks: DeBoer committed to wiping Sharks’ slate clean

Toronto Sun: 30 Questions for 30 NHL Teams: Part 2 – Western Conference

The Hockey News: Thornton, GM Wilson mend relationship as Sharks looks to get back on track

The Summer Knows – part 5: How well have the changes to the roster improved the Sharks?

And so she takes
Her Summertime
Tells the moon to wait
And the sun to linger
Twist the world
Round her summer finger

SJ Merc: Purdy: Have Sharks’ offseason moves made them a playoff team?

NHL roster departures:  Antii Niemi, Scott Hannan, Matt Irwin, John Scott

NHL roster additions:  Martin Jones, Paul Martin, Joel Ward

Is all of that going to be enough for a major boost in the standings? One of The Hockey News’ numerical meat grinders performed some calculations using the WAR (wins-against-replacement) statistic and declared that as a team, the Sharks have so far had the NHL’s second-best offseason in terms of boosting their victory expectations.

By the WAR metric, the Sharks have added 3.3 wins to their roster compared with a year ago. Only the Buffalo Sabres did better, with an addition of 4.4 wins.

And even with an additional 3.3 wins purely by these personnel changes, the Sharks still would not have made the playoffs in the 2014-15 season, being 10 points out (so needing those 6 WAR points AND at least five more from somewhere).

What needs to happen for the Sharks to return to the playoffs?  And is that enough to be a realistic contender for the Stanley Cup?

The Sharks will have to improve from within or upgrade the players further, plus get their mojo and fans back, to accomplish either.  (Or multiple teams ahead of them in the standings will have to fall back.)

First, the WAR metric does not address the issues of no captain and a new coach.

At the Sharks STH town hall (and reiterated in 7/23 radio interview), new head coach Peter DeBoer indicated the team will have a captain before the start of the season. So any issues with fractured leadership should be a thing of the past.  (But from the outside, I don’t think that leadership by committee was that big a deficit.) However, a single leader will allow the team to focus on supporting and following one man, and stop the speculation and distraction from not having one.  Very hard to discern the difference this will make.

A new coach and staff will bring new ideas to the team and play on the ice. The Sharks defensive play and PK are two areas that need to provide improve. (There are rumors that one or more additional assistant coaches will be added to the mix, so until that is finalized, and each coach’s responsibilities know, it’s just a guess as to what the team can accomplish with the new staff.)

Second, the WAR metric does not address the issue of a healthy Raffi Torres.

Torres may help the team draw more penalties with his abrasive style. In 2014-15, the Sharks drew 852 minutes of penalties, and had an efficacy rate 6th in the league at 21.6%.  In 2013-14, the Sharks drew 921 minutes of penalties, but only had an efficacy 20th in the league at 17.2%. So, in 14-15, even though they drew less penalties than the previous season, they got more results.  But with a healthy, Torres, they could increase the number of man advantage opportunities, and if they improve PP% further, they could add goals, leading to more wins.

In 14-15, Sharks had 31 one-goal games, including 9 regulation losses, and 15 that needed extra time. In 13-14, the Sharks had 43 one-goal games, 9 regulation losses, and 22 that needed extra time. So, those extra goals can help with those one-goal game deficits.

Third, the WAR metric does not address the mindset (and culture) of the team.

After their 2014 playoff fall out, some pundits have speculated that the malaise that precipitated it continued into the new season.  The team’s confidence definitely took a drop this past season.

Having clear leadership with a new captain, and a new voice and style from the coaching staff, may be exactly what is needed to revitalize and reinvigorate the psyches of the players and restore and renew the confidence that deteriorated.

Update 7/25: Couture mentions that he and other players will be motivated after a playoff miss.

Fourth, the WAR metric does not address the impact of fan support of the team.

The Sharks are known for a big home rink advantage, but 2014-15 definitely did not have it. Way before their February 2015 swoon, when the Sharks had no home wins for the month, their fan support was waning.

In 2014-15, the Sharks were tied for 10th with 18 home ROWs (regulation, overtime wins) and had one SOW (shoot out win).  In 2013-14, the Sharks were tied for 4th with 24 home ROWs, plus had five SOWs.

In 2014-15, the Sharks had only 24 sell outs. In 2013-14, they sold out their full season.

And what fans were there for home games in the 2015 calendar year, often voiced their displeasure at the home team based on the on-ice results (regardless of who was to blame: players, coaches, GM, owner, etc., which is beyond the scope of this article). Excluding some diehards, the arena often was half empty or more by the end of a losing game.

Thousands of season ticket holders did not renew their seats for the upcoming season (based on observed available seats at the select-a-seat event). Especially with the INCREASE in Sharks STH pricing.  The team has not announced (that I recall seeing) the STH retention %, nor the number of new STH.

Regardless of the changes made to date, I still get the sense that many fans are not happy that the ownership retained the GM, much less the ticket price increase.

Even with the lure of the 25th anniversary season, it may be that the team does not sell out at home and get the full support of the fans behind them until they  prove themselves on the ice.

(It won’t help attendance that the newly relocated AHL Barracuda will be sharing the arena and may be the focus of some Sharks fans on the future “stars” of the NHL team, rather than many of the aging stars of the current NHL roster that has not produced. This hockey option will be a much more affordable one compared to the NHL ticket pricing.)

 

Expectations from those external to the organization may be lessened with most pundits thinking there’s no way the Sharks can return to the playoffs after just a handful of player and coaching moves.

Internal expectations and goals are still high (that the team will be able to make the playoffs AND go far).

What the reality will be won’t be known until the “opening night” roster is set and the puck drops on a new season.

But there is hope that the 25th Anniversary season 2015-2016 could be the best yet.

(And GM Wilson’s oft repeated mantra: he’s always looking to improve the team. And he’ll work on the 2015-16 roster until the trade deadline.)