Sharks’ Strauss Mann Could Fix Goaltending Crisis

The San Jose Sharks have been struggling to find consistent goaltending for a long time. Martin Jones, Aaron Dell, and Devin Dubnyk have all struggled to hold down the net in recent years. After it was clear that the team needed to refresh the goalie options to get back to the playoffs, former general manager (GM) Doug Wilson decided to bring in Adin Hill and James Reimer to start from scratch. While Reimer has been playing above and beyond what was expected, the questions about who will hold down the net long-term still linger.

Related: Adin Hill Has an Uncertain Future with the Sharks

Going into next year, the Sharks will still have Reimer and Hill. In addition to those two, Wilson made a move to acquire Kaapo Kahkonen from the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline. It seems that the team plans to throw any-and-all goaltending options at the wall to see what sticks. If anything proves this mentality more than everything else, the recent signing of goaltender Strauss Mann looks to be another attempt at finding a future number one netminder.

Mann’s Extremely Successful Resume

Mann has recently been one of the best-performing goaltending prospects from the United States. During the 2017-18 season, he was the starting goaltender for the Fargo Force in the United States Hockey League (USHL). He performed amazingly, ending the season with a .932 save percentage (SV%), which was the third-best in the league. When the playoffs rolled around, he played a huge part in the Force winning the Clark Cup. From there, he took his talents to Michigan to compete in the NCAA.

Strauss Mann Michigan
Strauss Mann, Michigan (Credit: Michigan Photography)

During Mann’s time with the Michigan Wolverines, he managed to steal the starting position right out of the gate. Granted, his first season with the team was mediocre, but he did not receive much support from his team. The following two seasons showed just how capable Mann was of being a starting goaltender in the NCAA. Mann put up a .939 SV% during the 2019-20 season and a .930 SV% in the 2020-21 season. However, his next step was not returning to Michigan for his senior year. Instead, he signed a professional contract with Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL).

In the one season Mann spent overseas, he put up a .914 SV% in 22 games. However, his accomplishments during the 2021-22 season spanned more than just his time in the SHL. He was selected as the starting goaltender for the United States in the 2022 Winter Olympics after the NHL decided not to send its players over to the tournament. While the men’s team did not last very long, the Connecticut-born goaltender did great with a .945 SV%. Clearly, he had untapped potential, and the Sharks decided to bite.

How Mann Could Shake Up the Sharks’ Goaltending Situation

Now that Mann has joined the Sharks organization, he has a very good shot at working his way up the goaltending ranks. While Reimer has likely locked down the number one goalie position for next season, the backup is up for debate. Hill and Kahkonen both have a decent shot at locking that position down, but Mann could make a surprise run at that spot.

Strauss Mann Michigan Wolverines
Strauss Mann, Michigan Wolverines (University of Michigan Athletics Department)

More likely than not, the Sharks will place Mann with the San Jose Barracuda in the American Hockey League (AHL) for at least one season. While it is entirely possible that he works his way into the big leagues right off the bat, rushing his development could prove dangerous for the organization, especially considering how fragile their goaltending situation already is. If they want Mann to take the starting position, he needs to earn it.

Related: Ryan Merkley Needs More Ice Time

However, there is an interesting debate on whether or not the Sharks should try to give the net exclusively to their goalies of the future next year. Reimer played well outside of what fans expected this season, which provides him with quite a bit of trade value. While he has earned the starting position in the crease, they could try an experiment next season now that the team has quite a few options.

Sharks Could Get Much Younger Next Year

With Reimer’s trade value where it currently is, the Sharks could make a move to ship him off for prospects or draft picks. Obviously, the GMs are the only people who can determine how much a player is worth, but it shouldn’t be crazy to think Reimer has earned some value. If he gets moved to a new team next year, that will leave Hill, Kahkonen, and Mann in a three-way race to become the starting goalie.

There have been numerous times where a rookie goaltender approach has led to the discovery of gems. For example, Kevin Lankinen and Karel Vejmelka were goalies who never would have seen a hint of the NHL had their respective clubs not given them ice time. While neither has proven to blow the doors off the NHL, they have both shown how capable they are of being a goaltender at the highest level.

Adin Hill San Jose Sharks
Adin Hill, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With Mann’s signing, the Sharks have three relatively young goaltending options for next season. While none of them project to be the permanent solution to the goaltending issues, adding Mann will take some pressure off the other goalies. No one knows how he will perform in the NHL, but he may be the best bet the Sharks have at getting more than a short-term tandem goaltender. However, one thing is for sure, at least for now, Sharks fans should be excited for their new, hardworking netminder to get a look in 2022-23.