Training camp begins

The rookies have come to town, headed to Colorado to play against (more experienced) Avalanche and Ducks rookies, losing both games.  Meanwhile, those with under 50 games of NHL experience have been getting drilled by the NHL Sharks staff.

Starting Thursday, the rest of the guys (not still in World Cup of Hockey participation) will have their chance, and a few try out players will be seeking a contract (including some prospects).

The U50 and rookies have been skating and scrimmaged on Wednesday.  I noted that many of the drills seem to focus on speed – both offensively and defensively.  (Woe to the defenseman or forward who needs to improve his edge work. It’ll be obvious to the casual viewer that improvement is needed.) Guessing this is a chance for the organization to identify which players can skate faster/fastest, which was an issue against the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Sharks appear to be about $1m under the cap to start the season (this may change, slightly, as players are assigned to Worcester and the NHL roster clarifies).

The initial camp roster has no veteran PTOs (Professional Try Out).  This means that the Sharks really do want to give their younger players a chance to play their way onto the NHL roster.  There are seven prospect try outs on the roster, the same as the initial rookie camp roster. (Two haven’t been seen since the rookie camp “ended”, but no releases have been announced.)  With 45 players under contract (two which can slide if they don’t make the NHL roster), there is room to sign some of those try out players, or vets on PTOs around the league for more depth.  (Last season the Sharks did bring Zubrus in on a PTO, but that was after the season started and camp ended.)

Should be a competitive camp.  Vets should not be complacent and rookies may surprise.  The action starts Friday on the ice.

What a difference a year makes

2015-16 had a much better result than the 2014-15 season.  46-30-6 compared to 40-30-9.  So a six win improvement.

Last summer, it was noted that the basic additions of Paul Martin, Joel Ward and Martin Jones would only “add” about 3 wins per WAR.  Can the emergence of Donskoi account for the rest?  Probably not, but it definitely was a team effort to get the additional six wins.

In the chart, one can see wins and losses by goal differential for the regular season. The team seemed to be alternating some periods of wins and losses until the biggest positive differential in January.  Most folks have set this as the start of the Sharks’ season turn around.  After that period, it definitely had more wins than losses.  Pundits have attributed this to the Sharks finally “getting” DeBoer’s system and playing well together.

Whatever the cause, the Shark did make the playoffs and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.  And even though they had four more wins than they’d ever had in the playoffs, they still came two wins short of winning the Cup. (And they are the envy of twenty-eight other teams.)

How’d I do on guessing last season’s opening roster?  Pretty good. Donskoi kinda replaced Torres in the lineup, but Goodrow essentially spent the season in the AHL. Smith followed soon after, replaced by Zubrus.

The Sharks did exceed most pundits’ predictions (of them not even making playoffs).  One even was surprised (still in August 2016) they had exceeded expectations by going as far as they did.  (Amazingly, so many pundit predictions are so far off from reality, either way, that it can be laughable, or sorrowfilled.)

How will 2016-17 go?  There’s 30 days until camp starts and 39 (Logan Couture!) days until the puck drops.  A lot to watch with injuries (from World Cup, exhibition games and camp) and chemistry between players to help determine the season opening roster.  (But I’ve penciled in Dell for backup duty and Meier among the NHL forward lines.  And put a few guys from the 15-16 NHL roster on my “gotta-watch-out-or-will-end-up-in-AHL” list too.  Competition will be keen.)

News flash: Hertl won’t play at the World Cup tournament for Czech Republic as he’s still recovering for knee injury he suffered in Stanley Cup Finals, but expected to be ready for NHL season start.

RFAs re-signed – check

One of the items on General Manager Doug Wilson’s summer to-do list was re-signing his four Restricted Free Agents (RFAs).

And two weeks into the free agency period, that item can be checked off.

The four RFAs all re-signed for team-friendly, short term (max 2 years) deals.  (Hertl re-signed 6/29 for two years; DeMelo 7/11, two years; Carpenter 7/14, one year; Nieto 7/15, one year)

With the RFA signings, plus UFA signings of Schlemko, Boedekar and Kelly, the Sharks have 45 NHL deals signed (one slideable) and 5 AHL deals.

That may be enough to fill the NHL and AHL rosters for the season, with some extras in the ECHL.

But there’s still some possibility of additional signings, as well as some trades before the season opening rosters for the Sharks and Barracuda are set.

AHL Rule Changes for 2016-17

The AHL Board of Governors has announced a number of rule changes for 2016-17.  The most sweeping of which might be the change in how accumulating fighting majors may result in game suspensions.

Rule 46 (“Fighting”)/Rule 23 (“Game Misconducts”)

Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed.
During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game.
During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games.
In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.

Eliminating (by threat of game misconduct) “staged” fights immediately after a faceoff, should reduce the number of fights. As may the automatic suspension after 10 or more fights.

The Barracuda are not riddled with returning players that fight.  Only one, Alex Gallant, accumulated double digits in fighting majors last season. I’ll just note that Gallant was at the development camp in July and working extra hard to be able to contribute more two-way play than just with his fists.

Another rule change is that after icing the offending team cannot call their timeout to rest players.  On the surface, this could result in additional goals being score.  Hopefully, it will not lead to more injuries from tired players.

And in a nod to the NHL and speeding up the game, there will not be a dry scrap (with Zambonis) before overtime.  (Just the ice crew with shovels.)  I never had a problem with the clock adding the dry scrape before OT; I felt it provided a better ice surface, free of snow.

So, all in all, these rule changes should not impact the Barracuda negatively this coming season.  But hopefully will result in more offense after icings.

Free Agent Frenzy – Day 1

(Post will be updated through the day as former Sharks get new deals and/or Sharks make a signing.)

Official NHL list of signings

Sharks sign David Schlemko to four year deal.

Sharks sign Mikkel Boedker to four year deal.

Sharks re-sign Aaron Dell to two year deal. (Think NHL backup this season and expansion draft dangle.)

Sharks re-sign Michael Haley to one year deal.

James Reimer signs with Florida Panthers; as does Jason Demers.

Jamie McGinn signs 3 year deal with Arizona Coyotes.

Alex Stalock signs with Minnesota Wild

Brian Campbell signs with Chicago Blackhawks; Brendan Mashinter re-signs with Chicago.

Carter Hutton signs 2 year deal with St Louis Blues

Jeremy Morin signs one year, two-way deal with Tampa Bay Lightning.

Karl Stollery signs with New Jersey Devils

Matt Irwin signs with Nashville Predators

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.