The San Jose Sharks don’t have the greatest history when it comes to goaltending. Evgeni Nabokov, current goaltender coach and former Calder Trophy winner, is arguably the greatest netminder in team history but even he was arguably not elite. In the 2015 offseason, the Sharks traded for Martin Jones, and after he led the team to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, he looked promising.
Paying promising goalies, however, comes at a price. After two quality seasons as San Jose’s starter, Jones inked a six-year extension worth $5.75 million annually. The netminder’s save percentage dipped in the subsequent 2018-19 season.
Sadly, his play never quite improved, in fact, he’s sported a .896 save-percentage (SV%) the last three seasons. This led to the Sharks acquiring Adin Hill to begin phasing out Jones, but on Tuesday, Doug Wilson saw best to completely end the Jones era of Sharks’ netminding.
The Buyout Helps San Jose More Than Fiscally
Obviously, Jones’ cost dropping from $5.75-million to about $1.9-million while ridding the team of an under-average netminder is a no-brainer. At that price, I would reckon the team could sign a better goalie than Jones and net a lower price than Jones’ original cap hit.
The buyout, however, is not without consequences. The full structure of the buyout is detailed here:
The first three years of the buyout are most worth it for Wilson. By cap hit, the Sharks save between $2.8 and $3.8 million during the first three seasons. That is about the price I would anticipate needed to sign a second netminder.
In the final three years of the buyout, Jones’ contract would have expired, had the Sharks not moved in this direction. However, I would speculate that the NHL’s salary cap will begin increasing again by this time. So, with minimal distant future impact, the Sharks can sign a netminder for three seasons at a lower net price, with better on-ice results.
And, this move shows Wilson’s commitment to avoiding a rebuild. Some have speculated the Sharks could consider delaying a buyout until next season, lowering the overall length of the salary-cap impact.
I believe this buyout signifies to the San Jose locker room that incompetency cannot be tolerated. The Sharks want to return to postseason contention. Wilson has put his foot down and decided if practical, the Sharks will not endure three seasons of substandard play.
Wilson Looking for Veterans
Hill, 25 years old, will begin next season as part of San Jose’s tandem, after being given his extension from Wilson. To vary the team’s netminding look, I would anticipate the Sharks approaching a veteran goaltender. I’ve mentioned it in the past, but I think Jaroslav Halak fits that bill best of any prospective netminder. He had a perfectly average 2020-21 season in his 19 NHL games, sporting a .905 SV%. At 36 years old, he would keep a low term and cap hit, allowing Alexei Melnichuk a potential NHL shot in the next couple seasons.
James Reimer, a former Shark from the 2016 playoff run, is set to become a free agent. The 34-year-old sported a .906 SV% through 22 games, splitting the crease with two other goalies in Carolina.
Jonathon Bernier, probably the most expensive candidate I will note, had his rights traded to Carolina, but remains unsigned. He held a .914 SV% through 24 games with Detroit. I would expect his AAV to be well above $3 million, so his price could be substantial.
If the Sharks want to gamble on a clear backup to move into a larger role in San Jose, 28-year-old Laurent Brossoit could be an interesting choice. The clear backup behind Connor Hellebuyck, he held a .919 SV% through 14 games last season. He would be the riskiest option, given the Sharks would allow him a much larger role.
Doug Wilson Riding Line Between Rebuild and Contention
From Wilson’s press conference detailing Jones’ buyout, it is clear that the GM recognizes the future could be in capable hands in net. Assuming Hill, Benjamin Gaudreau, or Melnichuk could become a future starter, Wilson has confidence in the future of his skater core.
William Eklund’s availability at seventh overall lost any hope of trading down and Wilson can complement that star piece with quality 2020 draft picks such as Thomas Bordeleau, Ozzy Wiesblatt, and Daniil Gushchin. He mentioned Santeri Hatakka by name when addressing his confidence in the future of the team’s blue line.
Despite oozing with excitement for his future core, he refuses to try rebuilding and maximizing their potential. Wilson plans on a veteran third center, a quality veteran goalie, and mentioned pursuing more wingers to force younger players to work for their jobs.
Wilson’s reasoning for his desire to add veteran players ahead of the 2021-22 season? Internal competition. He feels that young players were handed roles that were outside their ability, and wants those youngsters to earn those lineup spots in training camp and throughout the season.
Free agency begins on Wednesday, and the Sharks, led by Wilson, will begin a pivotal offseason as they begin to reassert themselves as a quality talent in a weak Pacific Division.
Josh is a young writer from the Bay Area, who now studies journalism at San Diego State University. In addition to covering the Sharks and Gulls for THW, Josh is a crossover scout at FCHockey and covers his school’s hockey team at TheDailyAztec. When not obsessing over hockey, Josh loves blasting music with friends, theatre, and playing with his dog. Follow Josh on Twitter for his latest takes on the Sharks, Gulls, and NHL Draft!