Connect with us

San Jose Sharks

A Salary Cap Consultant’s Thoughts on Labanc’s Next Contract



Kevin Labanc, San Jose Sharks
Credit: Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire

What will Kevin Labanc make next year?

Professional salary cap consultant Idriss Bouhmouch is thinking lower than some projections for the impending RFA.

Bouhmouch’s The Hockey Code supports NHLPA agents and NHL teams — he shared a peek at his 360-degree NHL contract consultation process and a Labanc projection with San Jose Hockey Now.

Sheng Peng: When consulting teams and agents on contract negotiations, can you talk a little bit about your approach? You really have to have an understanding of both sides.

Idriss Bouhmouch: I aim to bring a really comprehensive approach as there’s multiple factors that would influence a negotiation. Things like how much money is left on the cap, things like where does the player fit in the internal pecking order, age of the player, what’s his perceived ceiling, etc. It’s a long list that requires plenty of research.

Also, you have to look at the player’s side and what’s coming from there. A great example of where personal life influences a decision was seen with Jacob Trouba. His wife is a talented doctor and the couple decided Winnipeg was not where they wanted to be long term. Hence, a trade to NYR.

There’s a number of variables that speak to the people side of the business. Generally, there is not enough appreciation for the subtleties of personal situations, and how those affect the final agreement between both parties.

SP: What were your thoughts when Kevin Labanc agreed to a one-year, $1 million dollar contract with the San Jose Sharks last summer?

IB: This was a great example of an experienced GM in Doug Wilson really taking advantage of all the leverage granted to Managers and Clubs via the CBA. 

He’s a hockey executive who’s experienced but who will approach things less conventionally — he won’t leave any stone unturned. He uses leverage as much as he can, and this is what’s expected from decision-makers at the highest level in pro sports.

Labanc was coming out of his entry-level contract and he didn’t have any arbitration rights. When you’re an elite potential type of player coming out of his ELC like a Matthew Tkachuk or Brayden Point, there’s no question asked whether you’re part of the group or the core. The question comes down to how much you want, how do you want it paid out, and for how long.

In this particular negotiation, there’s the perception of how the team perceives Labanc and how the player and his representatives perceive the player’s projected development. Sometimes, when the team’s projections and the player’s aren’t aligned, that’s when we see stalemates and misalignment around proposed vs. expected term and AAV.

There was certainly some financial motivation behind the one-year term where the Sharks front office saw an opportunity to save money. Or, the coaching and player development staff wanted to see more of what they had in hand. 

Or maybe it was the player’s decision? Sometimes, taking a step backward to take a huge leap forward is a great play. You take less money to pump up your value. We’ve also seen players strategically “slow play” their careers by “betting on themselves on a very short-term deal, hoping it increases his value and leverage ahead of the next round of negotiation. Patrik Laine’s two-year deal [last year] comes to mind as an example of a player who used this tactic as part of their career management. 

Other times, a team is not comfortable to invest long-term without access to more of a sample size.

That’s exactly what happened in San Jose. They didn’t “have to” offer him anything longer than a year because he didn’t have any arbitration rights.

If you’re a team, you could tell a fresh-out-of-his-ELC player: “I’m only offering you a one-year deal. All the other terms are not on the table.” Term options may be offered at what may be perceived to be grossly deflated AAV amounts, forcing the hand of the player to have to wait until he earns arbitration rights before returning to the table.

Labanc’s is eligible to arbitration rights this year, so really it’s a different hand altogether.

There’s probably a lot more to the story here than has been reported. There’s always more than meets the eye, and that’s why negotiations are complex and dynamic in nature. 

SP: Labanc didn’t have the best year this season though.

IB: It was a show-me-what-you-can-do deal. Today’s NHL is fast-paced, the ability to play consistent two-way hockey and showcase defensive responsibility is valued by teams and coaching staffs across the league.

It’s not all on Labanc, but he ended up with a -33 which alludes to areas of improvements to his game. The reality is that the whole team performance was under expectations.

Still, this gives ammunition to the club ahead of arbitration to say, yeah, you can put up points, but you’re inconsistent defensively.

I can see from a team’s perspective, how they’d be risk-averse when the player is not offering consistent performances.

SP: So what kind of contract do you think Labanc and the San Jose Sharks will end up with?

IB: That -33 is going to hurt him. Plus-minus isn’t a defensive catch-all stat, but it’s going to be hard to refute that number in arbitration.

That said, it’s hard to score 40, 56, then 33 points in the league. Secondary scoring is important, and Managers will tell you that having access to affordable depth is a luxury.

I’ve prepared NHL contract projections with Sam Forstner for the 2020 class of free agents at The Hockey Code. We can see Labanc getting a one-year or two-year, with an AAV range $3.1 to $3.4 million each year. A good comparable to me is Conor Sheary who signed a three-year, $9 million dollar deal as an RFA [in July 2017].

Keep in mind that teams will typically prioritize their own historical signings, while agents will aim to expand the scope of comparables to the entire league. 

SP: Doesn’t Kevin have more leverage though, considering the San Jose Sharks have just a handful of top-nine caliber forwards? 

IB: The way I look at leverage, you have to look at opportunity cost. If you have somebody in house already, you know their history and weaknesses. Knowledge is power. 

Can your coaching staff live with his strengths and weaknesses? Do you have the right players that can complement his skill set and shortcomings? Is he fitting well in the culture of the organization? Is the player investing in his success and making the sacrifices necessary to grow as a person and leader?

Labanc is not a top two-line player that you can use in any situation, but he has shown at times in his career that he can be a third piece to a good line.

Back to opportunity cost, you have to look at the free agency market. Who else can I buy for that money, and do they even want to come here? You have to look at all that to see if the team has alternatives for a serviceable top-nine player. Buyer beware, as the open market is ripe for bidding wars, and overpaying can quickly cripple a club’s carefully structured cap table.

SP: What other factors do you think might affect Kevin’s contracts and other contracts this off-season?

IB: I want to look at analytics from a business intelligence lens. How are decisions being made and why? Are there ways to increase the decision-making confidence, reduce the risk or maximize long-term flexibility? There is a reason I include advanced stats analysis, CBA leverage and comparables in my process to generate a contract negotiation analysis. 

Since the new CBA extension has been ratified, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a squeeze on the middle-class player. With the overall economic uncertainty, we may see Managers across the league adopt a cautious fiscal strategy.

On the other hand, maybe some front office will take advantage of everyone else’s caution? This is a league where winning counts above all else!

As Warren Buffet once said “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” 

Follow Idriss Bouhmouch on Twitter and check out his complete 2020 UFA and RFA contract projections at The Hockey Code.

Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
Continue Reading
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
david barnard

as soon as this guy started floating +/- i checked out.

david barnard

plenty of better stats to show Labanc had his best statistical defensive season in the NHL this season. not suggesting he’s a top tier defensive forward, but he’s shown improvement in that area (even if marginal). i think his comps are what ultimately will decide his next contract. i expect his value will be closer to 4 than 3.

david barnard

since Banc is huge on the PP-this outlines 1 of my biggest problems with the stat-Banc gets a “-” for every GA on the PP but he doesn’t get a “+” for every GF on the PP. the team scored 18 GF and gave up 4 GA while he was on the ice. that’s a net negative that should actually chew up much of his minus if the stat had any true value as a measurement of his performance. and that’s just 1 thing wrong with the stat as a performance measure. let’s look at McCurdy’s data: the unblocked shot… Read more »

david barnard

efowle had the fairest assessment, and go figure driven by analytics for the most part. i find it interesting that nobody talked about his linemates’ performances. Kane and Thornton struggled to put the puck in the net at 5v5 despite Labanc’s shot driving. that’s going to impact your counting stats. players that handle the puck a lot also turn it over (Burns, Thornton, and Karlsson also have turned the puck over a lot over their careers). although similar, he was better than Kane on the forecheck in pressures and disruptions per 60 with Jumbo being the weakest of his 2… Read more »

david barnard

as an aside, the Sharks have led or been among the leaders in NZ turnover rates the last couple of seasons. dump-ins lead to fewer NZ turnovers according to data, perhaps the Sharks shift to a “dump and recover” team next season? adding Craig Smith to line up could help. i believe Kane, Meier, and Labanc do a good job for the Sharks already.


I commend Kevin for betting on himself last year, but I honestly don’t think last year was any kind of indication of his potential. The whole freaking team sucked. That said, I think two years at 3.1 AVV is reasonable for LeBanc. Realistically, we will have to expose him in the expansion draft, so that two year term means he wouldn’t be going with any long term assurance, so that might make him less palatable to Seattle.


I agree, and this is a huge opportunity for DW to get a really talented guy with good potential on a very discounted contract. But I don’t think he has to be exposed. Assuming a strong forward is added this offseason, the Sharks have the current top 4 forwards to protect, and the one who is added. That means, they will likely be using a 7-3 split instead of an 8 skater protection. For the defense, there is Karlsson, Vlasic, and Burns to protect on defense, assuming nothing major changes. That means the Sharks will either expose Simek or whoever… Read more »

Gary To

I think Labanc’s advance stats this year wasn’t much worse than last when he had 56pts. Part of the difference was probably that Thornton was a better player last year than this and contributed to Labanc’s struggle hence proving again that he’s more of a support guy than driver. Let’s hope sharks and most fans are correct that at least Meier is going to be a driver.

david barnard

i think he’s more of a play/shot driver than a finisher. his goal producing rate was virtually identical to his best point season. i don’t think he’s a huge goal scorer. i just think he needs better finishers on his line (neither Kane nor Thornton lit it up at EV as his two most frequent EV partners). Labanc’s also a pretty good puck retriever in the offensive zone.

Last edited 22 days ago by david barnard
david barnard

i think Corey Sznajder tracks a lot of that. the Sharks were pretty bad as a team at 34% puck retrieval at 5v5 dump-ins. still looking for their shots of retrievals and individuals stats. his pressures/60 (11.20), disruptions/60 (8.40), and recoveries/60 (3.88) seem to be among team highs and respectable league wide.

david barnard

i got it off his xls for every team/player. it covered 278.55 5v5 TOI for Labanc.

San Jose Sharks

What’s Doug Wilson Doing with Sharks Forwards?



Credit: flrent (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If the San Jose Sharks are done this off-season, they’re not going to look remarkably different up front next year.

I don’t mean in terms of names and faces. San Jose legend Joe Thornton going to Toronto is change enough. Meanwhile, long-time penalty killer Melker Karlsson is also gone.

I mean in terms of proven NHL ability.

In October 2019, the San Jose Sharks had, by my count, 10 NHL-proven forwards:

  • Logan Couture
  • Evander Kane
  • Timo Meier
  • Tomas Hertl
  • Kevin Labanc
  • Marcus Sorensen
  • Patrick Marleau
  • Joe Thornton
  • Melker Karlsson
  • Barclay Goodrow

The 2019-20 Sharks finished last in the Western Conference.

One year later, San Jose has…wait for it…10 NHL-proven forwards:

  • Logan Couture
  • Evander Kane
  • Timo Meier
  • Tomas Hertl
  • Kevin Labanc
  • Marcus Sorensen
  • Patrick Marleau
  • Stefan Noesen
  • Ryan Donato
  • Matt Nieto

Of course, it’s not simply about quantity, it’s also about quality. Assuming Couture, Kane, Meier, Hertl, Labanc, Sorensen, and Marleau at least hold serve — a big if considering the 41-year-old Marleau’s advanced age — we’re weighing Donato, Nieto, and Noesen versus Thornton, Karlsson, and Goodrow.

Safe to say, neither trio is to be mistaken for the Legion of Doom.

Donato has second-line upside but was a fourth-liner on an average Minnesota squad. On youth and upside, I’ll give him the edge over the 41-year-old Thornton, who is a question mark as a potential third-line center with the Maple Leafs.

Colorado leaned on Nieto on the PK as much as San Jose relied on Karlsson there. Nieto also adds an element of a speed and perhaps a touch more offense, so the Long Beach native should be a small upgrade.

Goodrow and Noesen isn’t really a comparison. Goodrow has proven to be an ace penalty killer and a Stanley Cup-caliber role player — Noesen, up to this point in his career, is a fourth-liner who hasn’t displayed any special teams value. While both are ultimately bottom-six forwards, Goodrow is clearly the more valuable NHL player right now.

So is Donato, Nieto, and Noesen versus Thornton, Karlsson, and Goodrow perhaps a wash? It’s close either way. Anyway, this isn’t point: The point is, right now, are the 2020-21 San Jose Sharks appreciably better at forward than the 2019-20 version?

I’m not convinced.

I haven’t forgotten about Joel Kellman, Noah Gregor, Dylan Gambrell, or Antti Suomela, but I don’t consider any of them NHL-proven. Gregor may also be the only forward in this group who has legitimate middle-six upside.

Fredrik Handemark, John Leonard, Lean Bergmann, Alexander True, Joachim Blichfeld, Sasha Chmelevski, and Jayden Halbgewachs should also be in the mix, but they’re all huge question marks at the NHL level because of their inexperience. None of these forwards are blue-chippers either.

So here’s the question that San Jose Sharks fans are rightly asking: What’s Doug Wilson doing?

The Sharks have about $3 million dollars in cap space. It’s the stingiest free agent market in recent memory, meaning bargains a-plenty.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Carl Soderberg, Erik Haula, Josh Leivo, Dominik Kahun, and Conor Sheary are among the cost-friendly middle-six UFA forwards still available.

Last summer, San Jose made the mistake of heading into the season relying on too many unproven forwards. Besides Bergmann and Gambrell, Peter DeBoer was forced to dress Danil Yurtaykin and Lukas Radil on opening night.

“Looking back,” Wilson admitted last week, “maybe I didn’t have enough depth and competition last year, early in the season.”

By March, Gambrell was the only NHL regular of the aforementioned group.

And granted, last off-season, the Sharks didn’t boast significant cap space, it wasn’t a buyer’s market, and Kane was suspended for the first three games of the season.

That’s not the case here: It’s a buyer’s market and San Jose has money to spend.

Wilson, however, countered yesterday: “Would it be nice to add some things? We probably have to re-establish certain areas of our game and earn some things to be added.”

That sounds like Wilson is planning to start the 2020-21 season with this forward group as is.

He also added, of 2019-20’s rotating cast of young forwards: “We have some guys who had a taste last year, they’re now going to be a year older. So we think they’re ready to compete.”

Wilson isn’t wrong here and should know his internal assets better than anybody else. A lot can change in a year. But he also burned credibility last season with his reliance on in-house help that didn’t help.

Okay, so we’re at least two-and-a-half months away from the start of the season. There’s still plenty of time for Wilson to add to his forward group and at a reasonable price. We should be careful about taking the GM’s public statements at face value.

But right now?

Safe to say, there are more questions than answers in this San Jose Sharks’ line-up.

Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
Continue Reading

Locked On Sharks

Let’s Get Sad About Joe Thornton Leaving San Jose



Joe Thornton

Kyle, Erik, and JD are very sad. We talk about Joe Thornton’s signing with Toronto, where we were when we heard the news, and how we spent the weekend coping with the news. We look at his signature moments on and off the ice with the San Jose Sharks, including his famous four-goal quote (15:00), punching Petr Mrázek (21:30), and his fellowship with the boys (23:15). Check out the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Keep up with all things San Jose Sharks here:





Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
Continue Reading

San Jose Sharks

Joe Thornton Lost the Faith — Doug Wilson Hasn’t



Doug Wilson was a little wrong.

In this morning’s press conference to discuss Joe Thornton signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he said the San Jose Sharks were second to the Pittsburgh Penguins in wins and points since Jumbo’s first game in teal on December 2, 2005.

While San Jose is indeed second in victories — they have one less than Pittsburgh’s 660 — the Sharks have the most points (1,443), regulation wins (531), and regulation-overtime wins (589) in the NHL since Thornton’s arrival to then-HP Pavilion. They’re also tied for the best power play (20.9%) and have scored the fourth-most goals in the league.

And yes, all those points and goals didn’t amount to a Stanley Cup — but it’s just one way to underscore Thornton’s impact on the San Jose Sharks franchise.

Here’s another way.

“There’s probably very few players in all sports that could alter a franchise in the way he has,” Wilson said. “Even more than the numbers, he set a culture of professionalism, an unmatched love for the game of hockey. He really helped solidify, I think, the city of San Jose as a true hockey town.”

Of course, Wilson deserves just as much credit for that, from agreeing to suit up for the expansion San Jose Sharks after a distinguished playing career in Chicago, to acquiring Thornton as Sharks general manager.

But here’s something that Wilson might be very wrong about: Is San Jose still a playoff team?

Wilson asserted last week: “Do I think this is a playoff team with this roster? Yes, I do.”

Joe Thornton had his doubts, otherwise he would’ve come back.

Wilson acknowledged as much: “[Toronto] had a better year than we did last year. That’s a fair and honest evaluation with where it sits today.

“Joe, at 41, is looking at where the runaway left is and the opportunity. I fully understand that.”

It’s not as if Wilson didn’t try to keep his franchise icon. But Wilson — understandably after years of doing so — wasn’t willing to push all his chips into the middle of table anymore with this current San Jose Sharks roster.

“Joe and I have a very open, honest relationship. I shared with him the things that we were doing,” Wilson noted, before revealing, “we weren’t going to…in this year’s draft, we ended up drafting nine forwards. We needed to rejuvenate and replenish our system. I wasn’t really in a position to move, potentially, our first-round pick next year.”

It’s fair to say the San Jose Sharks are out of the “all-in” game, and Thornton could see that. The additions of Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Donato, Matt Nieto, and Marleau didn’t move the needle enough for somebody who’s declared “I’m a Shark” on multiple occasions. Even last February, Jumbo was already pining for greener pastures.

“I need to win a Stanley Cup,” the 41-year-old acknowledged on a Zoom call this morning.

Joe Thornton: “I need to win a Stanley Cup.”

Wilson tried to accommodate Thornton’s wish during the most recent Trade Deadline: “Joe and I were working on it together, but there just wasn’t a match. There wasn’t a team that he wanted to go be a part of or a team that needed a centerman or that type of fit. We worked together on that just as I did with Patty Marleau. We just couldn’t get a match.”

So what are the San Jose Sharks, if they aren’t “all-in” anymore? They’re still trying to win, of course — but they’ll have to do it with a jumbo-sized hole in their line-up and in their hearts.

“You don’t replace the love of the game, the passion and the energy that he brings. It’s up to everybody else who saw what he did, how he lived his life, emulate that and bring it to the table so we can re-establish our game and our team,” Wilson said of Thornton. “You have to have a whole leadership group. It’s on a whole group of players. It’s not a one-person leadership mentality.”

Wilson expressed faith in a group that honestly, Thornton looks to have lost some belief in.

“We as an organization have gone through this a couple times before in the past and we’ve bounced back very quickly,” Wilson pointed out, hearkening back to a disastrous 2002-03 season that segued into the franchise’s first Western Conference Finals berth the next year and a up-and-down 2014-15 campaign that led to a 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance. The San Jose GM added: “When Patty went to Toronto [in 2017], you had players like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow, Tomas Hertl step up and evolve their game.”

So who’s going to rise to the occasion for the Sharks next year?

Wilson pointed to the team’s younger veterans: “Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, it’s their time. They need to step up to the next level.”

Besides Hertl, Meier, and Labanc, he referenced captain Logan Couture and Evander Kane: “We’ve got five top-six forwards.”

He added, talking about Joel Kellman, Fredrik Handemark, Dylan Gambrell, and other pivots who have never played regular top-nine NHL minutes: “I’ve got eight or nine centermen to vie and fight for those two spots [at third and fourth-line center].

Wilson has spoken consistently about “Our best players needing to be our best players” all off-season — and there’s no doubt that he’s addressing Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns.

“I like our defense,” Wilson noted. “I want to leave a spot open for some competition for some of the younger guys.”

He’s also hoping for more out of the Gambrells, Joachim Blichfelds, and Noah Gregors on his squad: “We have some guys who had a taste last year, they’re now going to be a year older. So we think they’re ready to compete.”

The San Jose Sharks have about $3 million dollars in cap space right now. They’re missing an NHL-proven top-six forward, an entire third line, and a bottom-pairing defenseman. They still have time — will they take advantage of the stingiest free agent market in recent memory? Or will they pretty much stand pat?

Thornton, it seems, has made up of his mind on that score. Wilson, as usual, wasn’t tipping his hand to us.

“Would it be nice to add some things?” Wilson mused. “We probably have to re-establish certain areas of our game and earn some things to be added. We certainly have that flexibility to do that.”

Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
Continue Reading

Get SJHN in your inbox!

Enter your email address to get all of our articles delivered directly to your inbox.

Sharks Team & Cap Info

SJHN on Facebook

Follow SJHN on Twitter

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

All the San Jose Sharks news that's fit to print

Enter your email to get the best Sharks coverage delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.