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.

Teal-tinted free agent frenzy

As of June 29, the Sharks have 3 goalies, 10 defensemen and 20 forwards (plus pending buyout Burish) under NHL contract.  The nominal signed depth for the Sharks organization has been 5-6 goalies, 15-20 defensemen, 30-35 forwards (not counting signed players in the CHL).  So about another 20 signings to go.  (And some of those will be AHL deals rather than NHL.)

There are 6 RFAs, plus 5 UFAs (that could be re-signed), plus 12 other AHL players that could be re-signed.  And two college graduates (that need to be signed by August 15 or they become UFAs).  (Those figures may change as QOs are due 6/29. Some that are listed as RFAs may become UFAs if not qualified.  Or signed.)

And a handful of players not with the organization last year will be acquired (signed as free agent or traded for).

While the Sharks have tendered an offer sheet in the past, I don’t know that there are many players the Sharks would target (unless the RFA’s team is up against the cap).  (And the player has to want to play for your organization to even SIGN the offer sheet.  Some may receive them, but not sign.)

Obviously one top need is a new “#1” goalie.  This player may be signed in free agency (there are at least 26 as of June 29, including former Shark Greiss), but could be acquired by trade.  UFA options, under 30 years of age, include Kari Ramo, Jhonas Enroth, Thomas Greiss, Anders Lindback, Richard Bachman, Brad Thiessan, Jeremy Smith, Aaron Dell (signed by Sharks last year), and Allen York. Ramo, Enroth, Greiss, Lindback all have NHL experience.   Ramo might be an interesting option, if not re-signed by Calgary.

Sharks also need 2-3 more goalies to play in AHL and/or ECHL this season.  (UFA Dell and RFA Anderson could be re-signed.)

And the blue line needs some help.  One question to be answered is whether UFA Irwin is re-signed.  At least two NHL-ready defensemen are needed (Sharks may avail themselves of the UFA market, or try to land Bieksa or other signed player).  And another 3+ defensemen to fill out playing depth.

Up front, another 7-10 players are needed.  (My guess is that the majority would be prospect/depth players, not top end players.) I would expect the Sharks to sign a handful of prospects for development and 2 or so NHL depth (3rd/4th line) type guys, and some journeymen to help mentor in AHL.

Lots of needs.  Lots of options.

Some of the prospects the Sharks might be targeting, could be participating in the development camp, the second week of July.  (If of “draft” age, the Sharks can sign the CHL-bound players and keep them around a few years; but that nominally happens with players invited to “Rookie” camp in September, and not development camp in the summer.)

Let the speculation begin!