At the beginning of each season, it’s common to put thought into your favorite team’s players and their contracts. It’s fun to imagine how each player will add to your team’s success early on. Now, as we are near the end of the season, we’re going to revisit these contracts and talk about who lived up to the hype and who burned a hole in the San Jose Sharks’ pocket.
Joe Thornton has been a staple to the Sharks’ roster since 2005. There is no doubt he is going to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He has played 1,631 games, scored 418 goals, and tallied up 1,088 assists – Thornton is the definition of a Sharks legend.
This contract is a bit of a sentimental one for Sharks fans everywhere. After the team failed to make it to the Stanley Cup Final last season, knowing there was a chance Thorton would be retiring, it was a punch in the gut. His impact on the Sharks organization and his NHL success should have a Stanley Cup included. As training camp was inching closer and closer, there was still no official word on Thornton’s decision for this season. Finally, there was word that he decided to sign a one-year contract with the Sharks. The deal cost the Sharks $2 million out the door. An affordable contract that kept a key piece of the Sharks’ organization in a teal sweater.
It’s easy to look at Timo Meier’s stats this season and get a bit frustrated. Before signing his new deal with the team, he netted 30 goals and assisted on 36. His offensive production during the 2018-19 season was key to the team’s success. When he became a free agent at the end of the season, the team and fans alike were passionate about re-signing him.
The Sharks were able to pull it off, signing him to a four-year contract ahead of the 2019-20 season. (from ‘Sharks re-sign Timo Meier to four-year deal,’ The Mercury News, 07/01/2019) He’s making an annual average of $6 million, becoming the third-highest paid Sharks forward. This may seem steep for a winger who has declined in points this season, but it was a good decision made by general manager Doug Wilson. They signed Meier before another team could make an offer sheet. In order to keep him on their roster, they may have had to pay even more for him. This deal was (somewhat) cap-friendly and kept a dynamic forward in San Jose.
Tomas Hertl is so much fun to watch. Prior to his season-ending ACL and MCL tears, he was one of the only glimmers of hope in the shattered Sharks lineup. He replaced the injured captain Logan Couture in the All-Star Game where he had the most memorable moments. He wore a Justin Bieber mask during the skills competition after Bieber challenged the St. Louis Blues’ Jordan Binnington to a shooting challenge. He had 36 points in 48 games. It looked like a great season was ahead for Hertl.
Losing Hertl was another devastating blow to the Sharks team who saw nearly every notable player on their squad go down with an injury. While they played nearly half the season without him, Hertl has a great contract. He has three years remaining at an annual average of $5.625 million. The Sharks are paying less for Hertl than they are for Meier. Hertl has become one of their most valuable players with one of their most financially pleasing contracts.
This one is a no brainer. While Martin Jones was a wonderful force during the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoff run that lead them to the Final, he has yet to play at that standard since. He currently has one of the worst save percentages in the league at .897%. When he’s good, he’s good. When he’s bad, however, he is really bad.
After Jones’ impressive bid for the Stanley Cup, the Sharks decided to sign him to a six-year, $34.5 million contract. This decision seems a bit rushed in retrospect. I think the team genuinely believed he was their best option between the pipes, but he has only gone downhill since. He struggled greatly in the 2018-19 playoffs, especially against the Vegas Golden Knights. This season, he’s barely been their starting goalie. He and Aaron Dell seem to be sharing the duties. This contract is tough to get out of and the Sharks are going to feel the effects of it for a while.
This is not a critique of Erik Karlsson as much as it is the market value placed on players within the last few years. After the Los Angeles Kings signed Drew Doughty to a long-term and expensive contract, most big-name players in the NHL are looking for the same type of deals. Karlsson was originally a steal for the Sharks. They acquired him in 2018 for Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, a few AHL players, and a first-round pick. (from ‘Senators Trade Erik Karlsson to the Sharks,’ New York Times, 09/13/2018) A Norris Trophy-winning defensemen at that price? Incredible!
Once he got settled in with the Sharks, he provided a lot of support on their blue line. It took a while to get defensive pairings settled, but come playoffs, the Sharks were looking stronger defensively. Erik Karlsson suffered a groin injury that sidelined him off and on during the season. He had surgery over the summer and it seemed like whichever team would acquire the free agent would get him healthy. Doug Wilson pulled off a contract that kept him in the Bay Area. It was not a cheap one, however.
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Of course, someone of Karlsson’s caliber deserves a thick paycheck. The Sharks forked over an eight-year, $88 million contract. Part of the reason why this contract hasn’t panned out the way the Sharks imagined is simply bad luck. After missing chunks of last season with injuries, he was taken out again. In February, a thumb break took him out for the rest of the season. He can’t catch a break with his health and therefore, the Sharks can’t catch a break with his contract.
Aaron Dell spent the 2018-19 season as the unreliable backup goalie who was forced into big playoff games because of struggling Martin Jones. This season, he has split the starting duty with Jones. At times, he has been on his A-game more than Jones has. He deserved his chance to be the top guy, but I think Sharks fans are frustrated with the goalie situation.
Dell will most likely find a new home after this season. He is a free agent come April. It has been constant speculation that he would be traded. That trade never came. With his earnings at $1.9 million, he is a pricey backup for the work he generates between the pipes. The Sharks should be able to replace him with a better, more affordable option this summer.
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