Martin Jones and Aaron Dell are not long-term solutions in goal for the San Jose Sharks. Let’s take a look at what the future has in store from the farm system and how the Sharks might improve their goalie situation.
Dell is playing admirably since taking over the starting spot for the Sharks in December. He won the Sharks’ Player of the Month award in January. The 30-year-old completed the month going 5-3-0 with 2.38 goals-against average (GAA) and a .925 save percentage (SV%).
“He has been probably our best player over the last month,” said coach Bob Boughner after a Feb. 4 win against the Calgary Flames. “He’s giving us a chance to win every time he has played. You can tell how hard he is fighting.”
On the season, Dell has played 27 games with an 11-11-2 record, 2.88 GAA, and a .909 SV%. Those are solid numbers but not exactly at franchise-goalie level.
Dell played in his 100th career game in the NHL against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 6. In those 100 games, he has posted a 47-29-11 record, 2.67 GAA, and a .910 SV% with five career shutouts.
Dell did not have a franchise-goalie pedigree when the Sharks signed him as a free agent out of the ECHL on March 4, 2015. The 6-foot, 205 pound goalie will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. The Sharks have the choice of trading Dell by the deadline of Feb. 24 or try to sign him to a contract extension soon. It would not make sense for San Jose to not do one of the above.
Given the Sharks’ current position in the standings, using him down the stretch and not signing him is not a viable option. Dell is likely at his peak playing performance this season. Of course, there is no guarantee that he can put up numbers like these in a full-time starting role next season.
If the Sharks want to rebuild, trading Dell at his age and getting some assets in return would be the best option for San Jose. General manager, Doug Wilson needs to strike while the goalie is hot. Dell’s value has never been as high as it is right now.
San Jose thought they were nailing down their franchise goalie when they signed Jones to a six-year extension worth $34.5 million that took effect in 2018-19. That extension will not expire until after the 2023-24 season.
In the first season of his extension, things started to fall apart for Jones. He finished with a nice record of 36-19-5 but the underlying numbers were telltale. Jones posted a 2.94 GAA and an .896 SV%. He posted similar numbers in the playoffs going 10-9-0 with 3.02 GAA and a .898 SV%.
This season is getting progressively worse for Jones. He has lost his job to Dell and put up a 13-17-2 record with 3.25 GAA and an .889 SV%. His save percentage is the worst in the league among goalies with 1,000 minutes or more so far this season.
Jones has left the Sharks in quite a predicament. With four years left on a lucrative contract, it will be hard to move Jones without eating much of his salary.
At age 30, the Sharks may have to buy-out the final four years. They cannot keep Jones on the roster at such a low level of productivity. The Sharks need to make room to develop a younger goalie to succeed Dell if he remains on the team.
In a buyout, the team is allowed to buy out a contract and pay the player two-thirds of the remaining value over twice the remaining length of the contract and would still go against the salary cap at that level. The player then becomes a free agent.
San Jose’s top goalie prospect is Josef Korenar from the Czech Republic. Korenar has a decent chance of taking over the Sharks’ starting role in the future at a potential All-Star level.
The 6-foot-1, 180 pound netminder does not have the great size that has been the trend in the NHL, but he makes up for that with athleticism. The 22-year-old went undrafted in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft when he was ranked fourth among European goalies by NHL Central Scouting. The Sharks liked what they saw and signed him to an entry-level contract on July 13, 2017.
After playing in the Czech Republic during the 2017-18 season, Korenar took to the AHL going 23-8-2 with 2.54 GAA and a .911 SV% for the San Jose Barracuda. Korenar played well enough to earn AHL All-Star honors and so impressed the Sharks that they traded away fellow goalie prospect, Antoine Bibeau, to Colorado on Sept. 27, 2019.
Korenar’s numbers have regressed this season and he has been battling injuries on a bad team. For the Barracuda, he is currently 8-14-3 with 3.16 GAA and an .887 SV%.
Should Korenar settle into where he was last year during this season’s home stretch, the Sharks may give him a look on the big club. Sharks fans have been awaiting his arrival over the past two seasons. However, the Sharks will need to make a move with Dell or Jones first.
There are three other goalie prospects in the Sharks organization that need development. San Jose has in their system Zachary Sawchenko, Andrew Shortridge, and Zacharie Emond.
Sawchenko was brought up to the Barracuda from the Allen Americans of the ECHL on Dec. 31, 2019. Sawchenko replaced Shortridge who went down to Allen.
San Jose signed Sawchenko on March 29, 2019, after he played two seasons for the University of Alberta. The 22-year-old was the sixth-rated North American goalie going into the 2016 Entry Draft by NHL Central Scouting.
In his nine games with the Barracuda, Sawchenko has posted a 3-4-1 record with 3.06 GAA and .903 SV% The 6-foot-1, 175 pound goalie has a fair chance to make it into the NHL as a regular.
Shortridge went 3-7-0 with a 3.71 GAA and an .862 SV% while with the Barracuda before being demoted to the ECHL. It is not likely that the 24-year-old will ever make it to the NHL.
The youngest goalie prospect is the 6-foot-3, 177 pound Emond. After putting up some great numbers as a backup in 2018-19 for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL, the 19-year-old is posting a 22-18-4 record with a 3.28 GAA and .904 SV% this season.
Emond was the Sharks’ sixth-round pick in 2019 (176th overall). Only time will tell how he might adjust to professional hockey.
The Sharks need to break up that logjam of Dell and Jones at the top by either trading Dell or buying out Jones to give Korenar an opportunity in the NHL when he is ready. The rest of the goalie stable is weak and will need some attention this offseason. It is time to make a move.
J.D. has followed hockey since the 1980’s, focusing his attention on the NHL, WHL, BCHL, and WSHL and is the beat writer for the San Jose Sharks. He spent four years covering high school sports for local newspapers and 25 years officiating high school sports. He also covered local sports for two years on KITN-AM and KUGS-FM. His work is also published at CollegeSportsMadness.com and BustingBrackets.com.