After missing the playoffs for a third straight season, there are plenty of question marks surrounding the future of the San Jose Sharks. Their roster is an aging one that has a number of players on less than ideal contracts, the majority of which still carry plenty of term.
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Despite starting the 2021-22 season off relatively well, they went on to miss the playoffs by 20 points. For most teams, that would mean some serious roster changes are in store, though that may prove easier said than done for this organization, which, along with several bad contracts on its payroll, has yet to name a new general manager (GM) to replace Doug Wilson. That said, whenever a new GM is selected, here are four players he may consider moving on from in order to steer the direction of this franchise the right way.
One of those aging players who is on a less than ideal contract at this stage of his career is Brent Burns. The 37-year-old has three more seasons on a deal that carries a cap hit of $8 million and may be one player the Sharks look to move this summer.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet recently reported that having both Burns and Erik Karlsson on the roster hasn’t worked out how they had envisioned and that they have had discussions with teams on both. Given the fact Karlsson still has five more years on his deal that pays him $11.5 million annually, he will be next to impossible to move on from, but that may not be the case with Burns.
Despite his age, Burns proved in 2021-22 that he still has plenty to offer, as he recorded 10 goals and 54 points in 82 games. As if that weren’t impressive enough on its own, he also averaged north of 26 minutes on the year. That may be enough for teams to take interest, especially if the Sharks are willing to retain some salary.
While the 2021-22 season was a frustrating one for the Sharks as a whole, James Reimer performed quite well, with a 2.90 goals against average (GAA) and .911 save percentage (SV%) in 48 games. The solid year on an underwhelming team grabbed the attention of many, none more so than teams in the market for a goaltender this season.
Despite Reimer being by far and away the best goaltender on the Sharks roster this season, playoffs are pretty well out of the question in 2022-23, meaning they would likely prefer to go with youth in Adin Hill and Kaapo Kahkonen. On top of that, they would likely get a nice return for the veteran netminder, who, at worst, is a very solid backup. He also has just one season remaining on his deal with a team-friendly $2.25 million cap hit, making him all the more attractive for a number of teams.
Back in February of 2019, the Sharks chose to trade then-prospect Linus Karlsson to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Jonathan Dahlen. Not much was made of the move at the time, as Karlsson was very young, while Dahlen had middling numbers at best in the American Hockey League.
Fast forward three years later, and it is safe to say the Sharks made out best in the deal. Karlsson has remained playing in Sweden since the trade happened, while Dahlen was able to get in 61 games with the Sharks this season. Things started out quite well for the 24-year-old, too, as he had a solid 11 goals and 20 points in 41 games prior to the All-Star break.
Unfortunately for Dahlen, the second half of the season was nothing short of a disaster. He appeared in 20 games after the All-Star break, managing just a single goal and one assist. That ugly finish resulted in him ending his rookie season with 12 goals and 22 points in 61 games. While the skill is clearly there, he struggled big time with consistency, and with his contract having expired, it is fair to question if his time with the Sharks is coming to its end.
Given the little expectations the Sharks organization had heading into the 2021-22 season, it made plenty of sense that they gave 23-year-old Noah Gregor a real chance to prove himself as an NHL player. While he had produced in small stints in the AHL in past seasons, he had just 11 goals in 58 career games at the NHL level, meaning the 2021-22 campaign was very much an audition for him.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go the way Gregor nor the Sharks would have hoped. He once again struggled to produce offense with just eight goals and 23 points in 63 outings and didn’t seem to have the confidence of head coach Bob Boughner, as he averaged less than 15 minutes per game. Like Dahlen, his contract has expired, and though he is a restricted free agent, it wouldn’t be a surprise of any sort to see the Sharks move on.
Sharks’ Other Options to Move Out
While these four are some of the Sharks’ top options to move, they are far from the only ones. As mentioned previously, Karlsson is also a player they have had discussions on and would certainly love to move if they found an interested team. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is another aging defenceman on a bad contract that they would like to ship elsewhere, but similar to Karlsson, that may be easier said than done. Until they are able to move some of those deals, however, their recent struggles as a team are likely to continue.