2022-23 Pacific Division Preview: San Jose Sharks
Photo credit:© Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis1 year ago
Let’s get familiar with our rivals from the Pacific Division. Today, we have the San Jose Sharks, a team that’s currently stuck in purgatory.
What happened in 2021-22…
Record: 32-37-13 (6th in Pacific), Goals For: 214 (30th of 32), Goals Against: 264 (21st of 32)
Year after year of being a competitive team has finally caught up with the San Jose Sharks, as they’re currently being bogged down by an aging roster with multiple unmovable contracts and very little quality depth.
The Sharks started off well last season, winning their first four games right out of the gate. San Jose remained competitive through the first few months of the season, as they had a 17-14-1 record when the calendar flipped to 2022.
The wheels started to fall off for the Sharks in mid-January when Erik Karlsson went down with an arm injury. The two-time Norris Trophy winner had been enjoying a resurgent season on San Jose’s blueline and the team was completely in flux without him, as they went 3-7-6 while Karlsson was on the shelf.
With the trade deadline approaching and the Sharks clearly out of playoff contention, the focus shifted to the future. Tomas Hertl was in the midst of another strong performance and was set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career at the end of the season, so trading him to a contender seemed inevitable. Instead, the Sharks inked Hertl to an eight-year extension worth $8,137,500 annually.
The Sharks had a terrible run to end the season, highlighted by a 10-game losing streak that started in late March and went through the first half of April. They wound up finishing 32-37-13, nowhere near the playoffs but also nowhere near the top of the draft lottery. It was San Jose’s third consecutive year missing the playoffs, their longest drought in franchise history.
What to expect in 2022-23…
Notable Additions: Nico Sturm, Luke Kunin, Oskar Lindblom, Matt Benning, Markus Nutivaara.
Notable Subtractions: Brent Burns, Rudolfs Balcers, Jonathan Dahlen, Ryan Dzingel, Adin Hill.
Longtime Sharks general manager Doug Wilson stepped down in November to focus on his health and his replacement, Mike Grier, was hired in April, just a couple of weeks before the start of free agency.
It’s difficult to imagine a less enviable situation than the one that Grier has inherited. The Sharks have a strong enough core of players that they aren’t good enough to tank and stock their system with talent from high draft picks and that aforementioned core features contracts that range from difficult to impossible to move.
Grier traded Brent Burns, who was coming off of a season in which he scored 54 points and averaged 26:09 per game, and all they got back was a goaltending prospect, a bottom-six forward, and a conditional third-round pick, despite the fact they retained $2.7 million annually.
The next player who appears to be in line to be moved would be Timo Meier, who’s coming to the end of the four-year contract he signed after his entry-level deal expired in 2019. Meier will be a restricted free agent and has one more year left of team control, so there’s plenty of time to make a decision.
Would anybody be willing to take on Erik Karlsson, even at 50 percent retained, given his history with injuries? What about Logan Couture, who’s now the elder statesman of the Sharks, given his contract will take him to his late 30s?
With the money saved from moving Burns, the Sharks traded for Luke Kunin and signed Matt Benning, Oskar Lindblom, Nico Sturm, and Markus Nutivaara in free agency. Kunin and Lindblom have upside but these additions ultimately serve to help improve the depth and raise the floor of the team.
Verdict: The Sharks are stuck in purgatory. They aren’t good enough to compete, they aren’t bad enough to tank, and they have so many big contracts they can’t blow it up. It’s a very difficult situation and it’ll be interesting to see how Grier handles it.
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