In this edition of San Jose Sharks News & Rumors, prospect William Eklund will not be joining the San Jose Barracuda, despite his season in Sweden coming to an end. In other news, Kevin Labanc is expected to be shut down for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, pending unrestricted free agent Jaycob Megna is hoping to return to the Sharks next season. Last but not least, the organization announced on Tuesday that it has signed 21-year-old defenceman Nick Cicek to an entry-level contract.
Eklund Taking a Rest Period
Early into the 2021-22 season, Sharks management had to make a difficult decision on whether or not to keep the 19-year-old Eklund on their roster. While he impressed through the first nine games of his NHL career, they ultimately chose to send him back to Sweden to continue his development. Unfortunately, his season overseas didn’t go as planned.
In 29 games with Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), Eklund managed just one goal and 14 points. It was extremely disappointing, given that just a season prior he put up 11 goals and 23 points in 40 contests.
Due to the frustrating season, Eklund and his agent have made the decision to take some time off, rather than join the Barracuda for the remainder of 2021-22. A big reason for this decision is likely due to the fact that he will be playing games in August, due to the World Junior Championship being rescheduled for then. This will give him a bit of time to get away from the game and get his head on straight before resuming his skating and training. Despite the down year, he remains the team’s top prospect.
Labanc Likely to Be Shut Down
Back in mid-December, Labanc was forced to undergo shoulder surgery after taking a hit from Dallas Stars defenceman Jani Hakanpaa. It was believed at the time he would need about three months before rejoining the time, but it appears now that he may be done for the season.
Sharks head coach Bob Boughner recently spoke with reporters about the possibility of shutting Labanc down for the remainder of the season, and it appears that is going to happen. Given that the Sharks are well out of a playoff spot with just 13 games remaining, it would make little sense to bring him back at this point. If it is indeed the end of the 2021-22 campaign, he will finish it with just three goals and six points in 21 contests.
Megna Hoping to Return to San Jose
While some free agents look forward to testing the market and seeing what interest comes their way, Megna is making it clear he wants to remain a Shark next season. The 29-year-old, who has played in a career high 32 games this season, is currently on a one-year, $750,000 deal. While he is by no means a star, he has played solid with the Sharks this season, averaging just below 19 minutes of ice time per game. If management does hope to bring him back, it shouldn’t be very difficult to do so.
“I didn’t have any opportunities going into last year and had to come here on an (AHL) deal,” Megna explained. “They were true to their word. [The Sharks] gave me an opportunity to show them what I can do and get an NHL deal this year, and now being able to turn [that] into NHL games and being up here and playing regularly.”
Megna has been a nice story for the Sharks this season, as he came into the year having logged just 43 career games. He produces next to no offence, but has been a steady presence defensively, has a ton of size at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, and is inexpensive. He would be a fine depth option for management to consider bringing back.
Cicek Signs Entry-Level Deal
After finishing his junior hockey career with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL), Cicek signed an American Hockey League deal with the Sharks organization for the 2021-22 season. He clearly impressed in his 48 games with the club, as the Sharks chose to sign him to an entry level contract on Tuesday.
By all accounts, Cicek had a fantastic first season as a pro, and his stats back that up, as he registered five goals and 23 points from the back-end for the Barracuda. The terms of the deal have not yet been released, but should be in the coming days.
Up Next for the Sharks
The Sharks have two games remaining on their schedule this week, the first of which is on Thursday night against the Calgary Flames. It won’t be an easy one, as the Flames have been one of the better teams in the NHL this season, with a record of 41-19-9 through 69 games. They will then face the Vancouver Canucks in their final game of the week on Saturday night, and have the chance to play a spoiler roll as the Canucks still have a slim chance of getting into the postseason.
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Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.