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Scouts Talk Sharks & Bargain UFA Forwards

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Credit: NHL

The San Jose Sharks need better players.

That’s not exactly a news flash — the Sharks were the league’s 29th-ranked team and got their coach fired in December.

Two problems on top of that, neither exactly breaking news: San Jose doesn’t have a lot of cap space nor do they have any prospects that can be penciled into a top-nine forward job or top-four defensive role next year.

Of course, this should be a familiar problem for Doug Wilson — that’s exactly where the San Jose Sharks found themselves last summer with the free agency departures of forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist.

Wilson’s off-season solution, despite the “big favor” of cap space that Kevin Labanc gave him, was sign Jonny Brodzinski and Dalton Prout. These were his only veteran additions — otherwise, he gave Dylan Gambrell, Danil Yurtaykin, Lean Bergmann, and other prospects a chance to step up.

At last September’s Rookie Games, the scuttlebutt among scouts was that the San Jose Sharks would take advantage of training camp cuts and make some waiver claims. “Was shocked they didn’t put in any waiver claims,” one scout told me.

Brodzinski and Prout played a combined five NHL games this year, while a long line of Sharks prospects failed to nail down a middle-six forward role.

In Wilson’s defense, Labanc’s below-market contract didn’t free up a wealth of cap space — perhaps a couple million dollars. Prout certainly would’ve played more if not for two concussions. And the waiver claim list last year, per usual, wasn’t a jaw-dropping array of talent: Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Nathan Gerbe, and Martin Frk might have been the best forwards to hit waivers last pre-season. Interestingly, San Jose Sharks mid-season waiver claim Stefan Noesen was released by Dallas in September before he could hit waivers, signing with Pittsburgh AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton early in the season.

All that said though, there’s value to be found every off-season, whether it’s a former first-round draft pick who has lost his luster or a veteran thought to be on his last legs. Take, for example, 32-year-old Derick Brassard, who wasn’t signed until August 21st by the New York Islanders and for just $1.2 million dollars.

“I’ve watched so many of the Islanders’ games, there are just no weaknesses there,” Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said about his second-round playoff opponent on Tuesday. “Throughout the lineup, from line one to line four, how many teams in the NHL have Pageau and Brassard on their third line?”

According to CapFriendly, among players 30 or older, Brassard and his 32 points provided the fourth-best cost per point this year, behind only Tyler Ennis, Derek Grant, and Brad Hunt. Ennis was also an unrestricted free agent last summer.

This isn’t TSN’s Trade Bait board — there’s no Patrick Laine or Josh Anderson lurking here. This also isn’t a list of all the UFAs that the San Jose Sharks aren’t getting close to this summer — so keep dreaming on Taylor Hall.

More relevant to the Sharks, who are in the unenviable position of being cap-strapped, depth-poor, but hoping to contend next year — these might be some of the best bargain UFA forwards this off-season.

This is also a San Jose Sharks tailored-list.

They currently have a plethora of ideally fourth-line options — assuming the returns of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, Joel Kellman, the signing of Fredrik Handemark, their many prospects up front who disappointed this year but will have another chance next year to step up. They also have the framework of a decent top-six, featuring Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc. So we’re looking at potentially a brand-new third line.

Three NHL scouts were kind enough to offer their opinions about these 12 value middle-six UFA forwards.

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