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Preview/Lines #49: Some Points About Labanc That You May Not Have Considered?



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

There’s been so much Kevin Labanc chatter, David Quinn seems sick of it.

After Labanc’s fourth-straight healthy scratch on Sunday, a 4-0 shutout loss to the Boston Bruins, the San Jose Sharks’ bench boss was asked back-to-back questions about Labanc.

First, should we expect to see Labanc, the Sharks’ sixth-leading scorer, in the line-up on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings? Second, what went into Labanc getting scratched a fourth-straight time, especially since the Sharks were coming off a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets going into Boston?

“We’ve gone through this,” Quinn said. “I don’t want to keep talking about it. It’s just a decision to give that group another chance.”

Sharks Locker Room: Meier Gets Real About Gap Between Sharks & Bruins, Quinn Doesn’t Want To Keep Talking Labanc Scratch

You can argue, after two well-played games against playoff-bound teams New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars, both Labanc healthy scratches, that giving that forward group two kicks at the can against Columbus then Boston makes some sense. Bombed against the Blue Jackets, give them a shot against the Bruins?

We’ll see, after back-to-back disappointing efforts versus the Blue Jackets and the Bruins, if Labanc draws back into the line-up tonight.

But anyway, all that is just background to a few Labanc points that I wanted to throw out there.

  • Labanc is highly-skilled. I see some wild discourse out there, one extreme giving Labanc too much credit for some of his strong analytics over the years, another extreme saying that he doesn’t belong in the NHL. To the first extreme, I’d say what does Labanc do specifically on the ice to drive play? Don’t just give me numbers. To the second extreme, come on. That’s not even a genuine argument. You don’t produce like Labanc does – and I can show you high-end play after play – unless you’re an NHL’er.
  • Labanc is probably not tradable. His $4.725 cap hit on a contract that expires after next season is not tenable for a highly-skilled but defensively-suspect winger. The Sharks could retain, but since you’re only allowed to retain on three contracts, and they’re already retaining on Brent Burns’s deal, my guess is that GM Mike Grier wants to save those slots for bigger contracts on his ledger.
  • Labanc doesn’t want to get traded…at least this season. I don’t know this for a fact, but considering he just bought a house in San Jose and his wife Kelly is expecting next month, I doubt he wants to uproot everything or potentially be away from his family long-term right now. This off-season? Well, maybe he will be more amenable. His contract will still likely get in the way unless the Sharks retain.
  • Labanc’s extension was bad. I know, easy to say in hindsight. But I’ll admit, I made arguments for it when it was signed in Oct. 2020. And in Oct. 2020, before we knew for sure how the pandemic would affect the market, you could make an argument for the Labanc deal, at least from a productivity standpoint. So then-GM Doug Wilson basically gave Labanc a pre-pandemic contract during the pandemic. Alexander Barabanov’s most recent contract is a decent comp in some ways, though the Russian winger wasn’t as experienced as Labanc was before his extension. Barabanov is basically making half of Labanc ($2.5 million AAV) at less years (also expires after next year) for similar one-dimensional productivity. I think that’s roughly Labanc’s actual league-wide value right now.

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The San Jose Sharks will take on the Detroit Red Wings at 4 PM PST at Little Caesars Arena. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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