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Quick Thoughts: What Will Free Agents Balcers, Barabanov Cost Sharks?



Credit: NBCS Bay Area

What will it take for the San Jose Sharks to re-sign Rudolfs Balcers and Alexander Barabanov?

It might seem premature to talk about that – especially in the case of the recently-acquired Barabanov, who’s skated just two games in teal – but both wingers present interesting free agency cases with few precedents.

Let’s look at 23-year-old RFA Balcers first. Claimed off waivers in January, Balcers has established himself as a top-nine forward, at least for a mediocre San Jose squad.

There aren’t a lot of examples of impending RFA forwards who make do the same season that they’re waived – classic examples include Michael Grabner in 2010-11 and Chris Kunitz in 2005-06, but I’m not sure if either case has much bearing on Balcers.

It might be more instructive to look at RFA forwards last year with just one productive NHL campaign on their resume. Balcers’s scoring rate is currently 0.47 Points Per Game, so we’ll restrict our search around that area too.

NameAgeRFA YearPPG/RFA YearATOI/RFA YearPPG/NHL Career to RFA YearNext Cap HitNext Term
Rudolfs Balcers232020-210.4714:370.39??
Ilya Mikheyev252019-200.5915:340.591.645 mil2 years
Adam Gaudette232019-200.5612:230.380.951
Luke Kunin222019-200.4915:270.42.32
Andrew Mangiapane242019-200.4713:420.372.4252
Warren Foegele242019-200.4413:420.332.151
Jack Roslovic232019-200.4114:530.371.8382
Nicholas Paul252019-200.3614:260.251.352

The term – one or two years – is telling for all these comps. These are bridge contracts, opportunities for these young forwards to prove themselves worthy of long-term commitments and for organizations to minimize their risk.

So I’d expect Balcers and the San Jose Sharks to land on a one or two-year deal, on the lower end of the $1.5-$2.5 million dollar cap hit range. On this list, Nick Paul and Adam Gaudette’s contracts are the outliers – Balcers has more offensive upside and track record than Paul, while Gaudette is a more limited 5-on-5 forward, based on usage.

I would also expect the Sharks to protect Balcers in the expansion draft.

There are fewer comps for Barabanov.

First, let’s assume that his impressive two-game debut for San Jose is for real. That’s assuming a lot, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say the 26-year-old Russian winger finishes out the regular season with a productive stat line.

Of course, nine good career NHL games isn’t a lot to go by if you’re the San Jose Sharks and you’re trying to make a decision on a UFA.

So what kind of contract fits a Barabanov?

A couple recent comps come to mind – impending UFA forwards with small but impressive one-season NHL sample sizes – Ty Rattie and Martin Frk.

The 24-year-old Rattie was running out of chances when he joined his third NHL organization, Edmonton, on a two-way contract in 2017-18. Given a chance to skate with Connor McDavid at the end of the season, Rattie notched five goals in 14 games. For his efforts, Rattie received a one-year, one-way $800K pact.

The 25-year-old Frk signed a two-way contract with Los Angeles in 2019-20. Frk parlayed six goals in 17 games into a two-year, $1.45 million dollar one-way deal.

On one hand, for the San Jose Sharks, this should be a cautionary tale: Neither Rattie nor Frk have made a substantial NHL impact since their promising demos.

On the hand, the commitments made to Rattie and Frk suggest that another look at Barabanov won’t cost the San Jose Sharks much. The impending UFA, currently on a two-way contract, would probably look favorably on a one-way agreement close to the league minimum.

It’s been a tough season for Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks, but Balcers and Barabanov have been bright spots. Safe to say, however, both forwards still have a lot to prove before they’re considered genuine top-nine solutions for a winning team. Good news for the Sharks – it shouldn’t cost a lot to find out if they are.

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