The San Jose Sharks have been struggling for salary cap space for a long time. Since Erik Karlsson signed his eight-year contract in 2019, the Sharks have been near the cap ceiling. Then, in a nearly poetic twist, the team began losing games at an alarming rate the following season. With a dwindling number of wins and many poor contracts, general manager Doug Wilson began a semi-retool.
With the 2021-22 season halfway complete, questions on the Sharks’ plans for the offseason are being asked more and more. Luckily, Wilson opened some cap space through his moves, but there is still a lot of salary being thrown in the wrong directions. So, with a large number of expiring contracts starting to pile up, what will the Sharks do to give themselves more wiggle room?
Restricted Free Agents
Jonah Gadjovich and Lane Pederson will both be restricted free agents (RFA) at the end of the season. Both players have struggled to find their game with the Sharks this year. Gadjovich has two points in 25 games, and Pederson has two points in 23 games. Neither player is very old, so the Sharks will likely re-sign them to small contracts to see if they can potentially turn things around.
Alongside Pederson and Gadjovich, Johnathan Dahlen will be a RFA in the summer. However, he has had a decent rookie season with the Sharks, unlike those two. He was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25, 2019, for Linus Karlsson. This season, Dahlen has put up 20 points in 41 games. Of his 20 points, 11 are goals. His scoring presence has been incredibly welcome on a mediocre Sharks team.
The Sharks would be making a grave mistake by not bringing back Dahlen. He found a comfortable spot on the team’s top line, and he provides a young presence that counteracts the many old faces. However, it is no question that Dahlen is going to be receiving a raise this offseason. Therefore, some of the Sharks’ valuable cap space will need to be devoted to keeping him around for a while.
As far as defensemen go, Nicolas Meloche, Jacob Middleton, and Nikolai Knyzhov have contracts that expire this season. Knyzhov has spent all season on injured reserve, so he has no stats to go off of for this year. Regardless, he will likely be re-signed by the Sharks. However, Middleton and Meloche have more questions that need to be answered. Both players are in their mid-20s. They will likely be kept around during the retool, but not long-term.
Mario Ferraro has quickly become a fan-favorite in San Jose. He was a former second-round pick who has led the young defensemen on the Sharks. This season, he has 11 points in 42 games. However, his plus/minus rating is plus-1. While it may not seem all that impressive on the surface, his plus/minus rating is one of the best on the team.
Ferraro will undoubtedly receive a contract from the Sharks this offseason. He has been one of the most critical players in the organization in recent years. Many young defensemen have been getting their shot with the Sharks, but Ferraro has risen above and beyond them all. There is a reason he was given an alternate captain role on the squad. He will be around for years to come.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Of the pending unrestricted free agents (UFA), the least likely to return is Jaycob Megna. The 29-year-old American has spent most of the season with the San Jose Barracuda. In his limited time with the Sharks, Megna had one point in 19 games. While his veteran presence on the Barracuda is vital to the players’ development, that may not be enough to justify a contract extension in the organization.
Andrew Cogliano has provided good veteran leadership for the Sharks this season. In 42 games, he has put up 12 points so far. He was never expected to be a heavy producer for the Sharks, and he has not defied those expectations. Whether or not Cogliano is given another contract with the team is up in the air. He could continue to provide more veteran leadership for the Sharks, but plenty of pending UFAs could do the same thing.
Alexander Barabanov has been one of the most surprising Sharks this season. In 38 games, he has six goals and 17 assists for 23 points. He was acquired in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs in April 2021. He needed a change of scenery after a season with the Maple Leafs went nowhere. However, it would appear that his transition to the Sharks went much better than most people expected.
Barabanov is a promising player in a Sharks team filled with questions. Considering that the Sharks have been the first NHL team he had success with, there is likely mutual interest in a new contract. He may be a bit older than many of the new Sharks players, but he has the potential to be a key player in a new-look team.
Related: Barabanov’s Future with the Sharks
The most significant talking point of this offseason for the Sharks is their plan for Tomas Hertl. Hertl has been one of the best players the team has had for years. He was the voice of hope that brought the Sharks back in the first round of the 2019 Playoffs with his high energy and spirit. He constantly wears a smile on his face despite the Sharks’ challenges. If any Shark has future captain potential, it’s Hertl.
Losing Hertl would be the most significant blow the Sharks could face in their current state. Losing him in free agency would be soul-crushing. His point totals are decent this year, with 38 in 46 games, but his value is more than his scoring. He is a leader on the ice. If he wants out of San Jose, he could be worth many assets. However, if the Sharks can keep Hertl from leaving, they should do anything they can to keep him around.
What moves do you think the Sharks should make with their pending RFAs and UFAs? Should the Sharks try to get assets out of Hertl through a trade? Let us know in the comments!
Andrew Stille is a freelance writer for THW who is currently studying Journalism and Communication in college. In addition, he’s a devoted NHL content creator looking to grow and learn daily. Andrew is a trustworthy source for everything San Jose Sharks-related and strives to create fun and exciting articles for all readers.
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