The NHL Entry Draft has finally come to an end, and San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has still made no big moves. Though the club is in dire need of many things, the two major holes on the roster are a two-way center on the third line and a starting goaltender.
The Sharks acquired 25-year-old goaltender Adin Hill and a 2022 seventh-round pick last week from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Josef Korenar and a 2022 second-round pick. Some are under the impression that Hill was acquired to serve as the starting goaltender of the club for the 2021-22 season. I just don’t see how this can be the case.
Let me explain.
Hill Remains Unproven
Hill is still largely unproven as a starting goaltender because he hasn’t played all that many games in the NHL yet. Since 2017, Hill has only played in 49 games, posting an average .909 save percentage (SV%) over that period of time. While these numbers are better than Martin Jones’ .901 SV% over that same period of time, I still don’t think it’s going to be enough to shore up the subpar play of the Sharks’ defensive corps.
The part of Hill’s game that’s really concerning — again, considering how few games he’s played — is the medium and low-danger chances he’s faced. While he is decent at shutting down the opposition in the high-danger zones, he’s letting in too many pucks from areas where he should effectively be lights out.
These numbers could, of course, be due to the kind of team he was with in Arizona. But the Sharks are not much different. Both clubs missed the postseason this year, and it’s possible, if not plausible, that the Sharks miss out on the postseason again this upcoming season.
With such a small sample size to go on, it’s difficult to justify Hill as the one trusted between the pipes. I believe he would be a serviceable backup goalie throughout the regular season, starting in 30 games throughout the regular season, but I wouldn’t trust him to foot 50-plus games with the subpar help he has in front of him.
Hill is, nevertheless, a low-level risk. His cap hit during the 2020-21 season was $800,000. For that kind of money, it’s worth waiting to see if he manages to turn into the kind of netminder the Sharks need him to be. But he is almost certainly not a long-term solution.
Following the second day of the draft on Saturday, Wilson said: “Young players are going to come in and push and compete, but I’m going to bring in some veterans, too, that will create and elevate the competition. There will be more competition in training camp and more challenges for people to earn ice time, which makes us a better team.” (From “The Sharks used the draft to restock for their future, but the present still looks rough,” The Athletic, 7/24/21)
One can only hope that the veteran players Wilson mentioned will include a proven goaltender.
The Silver Lining
The Sharks have a hair over $9.5 million available in cap space to acquire the necessary talent that would give them a fighting chance this season. If they can cough up picks from this year’s draft in order to pick up a promising third-line center, there would be plenty of revenue to acquire one of the many goalies currently sitting available in free agency.
Here are a few of the top-tier goaltenders available this offseason:
- Philipp Grubauer: Though it’s likely the Colorado Avalanche have an interest in keeping Grubauer, his cap hit has been $3.33 million over the past three years, and he’s earned every penny. His SV% has never dipped below .915 in the nine years he’s been in the NHL. If there’s any chance the Sharks can entice him to come to the Bay Area, they should certainly do so.
- Frederik Andersen: It appears Andersen has fallen out of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ favor in exchange for Jack Campbell. Though Andersen didn’t have a great 2020-21 season (posting a .895 SV%), I think he is still a top-tier goaltender with a reasonable price tag, coming in at $5 million over the past five seasons. San Jose could be a good place for Anderson to get back to the starting position and prove that he’s still capable of all-star performances.
- Petr Mrazek: Mrazek has been out since February with a thumb injury, and there’s no doubt the Carolina Hurricanes want him back in the lineup, but they have yet to sign him. He is arguably the best of the three goaltenders mentioned here, and his cap hit has been sitting at $3.125 million for the past two seasons. That’s a steal for what a team would be getting in return. He has had a .911 SV% the past three seasons, and there’s no reason he can’t return to his prior self so long as he stays injury-free.
It’s unclear how likely it is that any of these three goaltenders mentioned will be signed by the Sharks, but it proves that there is simply too much talent available on the market to settle for Hill. With the amount of money the Sharks currently have to spend, it’s hard to argue against finding a goaltender that can steal games for a team that has been suffering in net for the past three seasons.
I have no doubt that the Sharks will be bringing in another goaltender before the start of the 2021-22 season, but it may not be of the caliber a lot of us are hoping for.
Considering that the cap space is not really a pressing issue — and the probability they’ll buy out Jones sometime soon — there is no reason why the Sharks should not be looking at the top of the most talented goalie list this offseason. It would also be good for the fanbase to see that the club’s upper brass are making an honest effort in making the club a contender in a weak Pacific Division.
And they can start by acquiring a promising netminder.
As with many young kids who grow up in the Midwest, CG played a lot of hockey. His love and appreciation for the game is why he’s here, writing for The Hockey Writers, covering his two favorite teams: Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks. But he writes other things, too, including a debut novel that is set to come out in July of 2021. You can find him on Twitter @TheLastSisyphus.