Ranking the Sharks 2022 NHL Free Agency Signings

The 2022 NHL Free Agency period began on July 13. While numerous top-tier players found homes on shiny new teams, the San Jose Sharks decided to take a low-key approach to their signings. Rather than snag some of the top names on the market, management prioritized depth players. However, while there were no clear steals, some of the players signed were precisely what the team needed. That being said, the same can not be said about every singing the Sharks made.

6. Aaron Dell

One of the Sharks’ most confusing signings included the return of goaltender Aaron Dell. He previously played backup to Martin Jones before he started bouncing around other NHL teams in 2020. Unfortunately, Dell was unable to find a permanent home in the NHL and spent most of his time for the AHL affiliates of whatever club he was signed with at the time. Most recently, he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization.

Aaron Dell New Jersey Devils
Aaron Dell with the New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

What makes this signing so weird for the Sharks is their insane number of goaltenders. What was once a weak spot for the team has become one of the most well-rounded areas, perhaps even to a fault. James Reimer, Adin Hill, and Kaapo Kahkonen are all NHL-level goalies, and Strauss Mann, Eetu Makiniemi, and Zachary Emond will be spending their time with the San Jose Barracuda this year. This leaves very little space for Dell to fit in.

Related: Sharks’ Strauss Mann Could Fix Goaltending Crisis

Realistically, there is a good chance Reimer is traded this season, which would leave Hill and Kahkonen handling the net for the NHL squad. If that happens, there would be more room for Dell, but realistically the team did not need to sign him. However, it is good to see Dell again as a member of the organization. Hopefully, they will be able to find a spot for him.

5. C.J. Suess and Andrew Agozzino

There is not much to be said about the signing of C.J. Suess. He has consistently been an AHL-level player, and it would appear he was brought in to add more depth to the Barracuda. Most recently, he played in the Winnipeg Jets organization, where he spent most of his time with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL.

Andrew Agozzino Pittsburgh Penguins
Andrew Agozzino with the Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Suess was not the only AHL depth brought in; the Sharks also signed Andrew Agozzino. He is in a similar boat where he consistently struggled to play in the NHL and spent a lot of time with different organizations. Most recently, he played in the Ottawa Senators’ AHL affiliate, the Belleville Senators. So, while he may get the occasional chance with the Sharks, he will probably stay in the AHL with Suess for most of the season.

4. Markus Nutivaara

After the Sharks traded away Brent Burns, they decided to target some bottom-pairing defense in free agency. One of the players they brought in is Markus Nutivaara, who recently was a member of the Florida Panthers. He has never been a high-scoring player, and he will probably spend most of the season as the extra defenseman or on the bottom pairing.

Markus Nutivaara Florida Panthers
Markus Nutivaara with the Florida Panthers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The biggest concern with the Sharks signing Nutivaara is that it could take time away from the younger defensemen who will get a chance now that Burns is gone. It seemed that Ryan Merkley would get a more prominent role with the team this year, but now it is less certain with extra defensemen being brought in. However, getting extra defensive depth could be good for the team, especially if a change of scenery revitalizes Nutivaara’s career.

3. Matt Benning

Matt Benning was a member of the Nashville Predators for the past few years. Similar to Nutivaara, he was a bottom-pairing defenseman who never found his stride with his team. The Sharks decided they were going to take a chance on him this year, which could offer Benning a chance to get his career back on track.

Matt Benning Nashville Predators
Matt Benning former Nashville Predator (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

The primary difference between Benning and Nutivaara is that Benning is slightly better offensively. However, the separation between these two players is minuscule. Once again, the concern that younger defensemen may not get their chance with the Sharks is a growing issue. However, there is still time for the team to move a defenseman or two before the season starts. This could be one of those times where fans just need to trust the process.

2. Nico Sturm

Nico Sturm is fresh off the heels of a Stanley Cup championship with the Colorado Avalanche. His point totals have never been outstanding, but he has been a great bottom-six forward for the teams he has played for. Now that his time with the Cup champions has passed, the Sharks decided they wanted to add him as a depth player to help fill the roster before the season begins.

Nico Sturm Minnesota Wild
Nico Sturm former Minnesota Wild (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

Sturm’s presence in the bottom six will likely have the same benefits Andrew Cogliano provided before he was traded to the Avalanche during last year’s trade deadline. The Sharks will be playing their younger forwards in the top six, but they lacked a hard-hitting force before free agency started. Sturm should be able to fill this role nicely.

1. Oskar Lindblom

Oskar Lindblom is one of the most inspirational players in the NHL. After beating cancer in 2020, he returned to the Philadelphia Flyers, but his play did not satisfy their organization. They bought him out prior to the free agency period, and the Sharks decided to nab him while he was on the market.

Oskar Lindblom Philadelphia Flyers
Oskar Lindblom with the Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Lindblom is the best signing the Sharks made by far. He is a player who could greatly benefit from a change of scenery. The Sharks will slot him into the top six to give him a chance to find his game again, and if it pays off, they could have found an insane steal of a player for very little money. While none of the other signings are ones to get super excited about, this one has the potential to be excellent.

Related: Sharks’ 3 Trade Targets During the Offseason

Now that the Sharks seem to have completed most of their free agency signings, the next step is finalizing a head coach. A lot of work needs to be done before this season begins. However, it seems that depth is no longer an issue for the Sharks. If they can find a coach to bring that depth to life, maybe this season will be better than the last.