San Jose’s big signing over the offseason has already happened in the informal agreement of Logan Couture’s contract extension. However, in the background lies the contract of Raffi Torres. The contract that is on the table could be a gamble, however. Is the abrasive Torres worth the profit?
The Raffi Torres Upside
Raffi definitely brings an element to the forwards that is missing from the Sharks front men. With the absence of Ryane Clowe, the Sharks are not a very physical team. During the regular season, which included some games from Torres, they ranked 22nd in the NHL in hits. Among forwards, only Tommy Wingels finished with more hits during the regular season.
Torres became a spark plug for the Sharks when the team looked to be selling at the trade deadline. The Sharks third line, which had very few teams trembling on their blue lines, turned into a legitimate scoring threat. He is in the top 60 in the last five years in goals per sixty minutes of even strength hockey. That’s a spot that puts him ahead of Anze Kopitar, Pavel Datsyuk, and David Krejci.
Torres is known more for his fearless physical play and less for his surprising scoring touch. His big hits and scrappy plays give him an enforcer role that can swing momentum. Massive body checks can bring the crowd into a frenzy. Torres is easily more than capable of delivering those big hits.
The Torres Downside
As shown in the video of his postseason suspension, Torres has been problematic. His heavy hits and aggravating presence have earned him a reputation. Most notably, his Sharks career got off to a rocky start. His hit on Jarret Stoll of the Kings garnered a new type of Shannaban. Torres was suspended for the rest of the Sharks/Kings series, an indiscriminate number of games. Even worse, he has shown that he does not learn lessons.
I still feel like it was a clean hit. I didn’t do anything that I don’t think I’ll do again.
Torres is the villain of the NHL today. He is despised by almost everyone in the league as a dirty player. If anything, the Sharks were one of his most frequent victims. The problem with keeping a hard-nosed enforcer is the risk in losing a roster spot. The Sharks could very well be spending offseason money on a player that could earn another 20+ game suspension.
San Jose Goes to Vegas
The Sharks are gambling here. There is no question about it. Raffi Torres is an instigator. He is not a nice guy on the ice. He could be facing down Brendan Shanahan by the second week of the season. But he could also provide the most important thing the Sharks need: a scoring third line. San Jose has never been able to attract the big free agents of the past. Torres could be a steal that no other team would dare touch. If Todd McLellan can reel the wild side of Torres in, the Sharks could see their deepest team ever.