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Labanc Wants ‘Fresh Start’: What Team Was Interested in Him Last Summer?



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

Kevin Labanc alluded to wanting a fresh start, away from the San Jose Sharks, on Tuesday. His agent confirmed it the next day.

“I echo what Kevin said yesterday about finding a fresh start. We are working with the team to find him a new opportunity in the NHL either by the trade deadline or the off-season,” Labanc’s agent Michael Curran told The Hockey News. “Regardless of the outcome, I know he will continue to work as hard as he can to get back in the line-up and give the Sharks his best effort.”

Labanc Sees Writing on the Wall for Sharks’ Career

So what’s next for Labanc, who’s been with the Sharks since they drafted him in the sixth round in 2014?

On one hand, the offense-first winger has just seven points in 32 games this season, a far cry from his half-a-point pace from 2017 to 2023. A healthy scratch for seven consecutive contests as of tonight, the pending UFA’s $4.725 million AAV also makes him difficult to deal. The other complicating factor is that the San Jose Sharks have just one salary retention slot available, and frankly, other more in-demand trade candidates on the team are probably ahead of Labanc in line to use it.

On the other hand, Labanc is just 28, and not that far from his most productive hockey. While his career-best 56-point campaign was back in 2018-19, last season, he enjoyed a 23-points-in-29 games stretch when he was lined up with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier. Labanc has usually produced when put in a best position to.

He’s also a team player, someone who will literally put his money where his mouth is, based on the unconfirmed but widely-held belief that Labanc took a well below market-rate one-year, $1 million contract, after his career 2018-19 campaign, to help the Sharks stay contenders.

A quiet market for his services right now is speaking loudly though: Labanc’s contract and the San Jose Sharks’ lack of retention slots are likely to limit his suitors this Trade Deadline.

However, it’s not that teams aren’t interested in Labanc’s playmaking ability. Curran, to San Jose Hockey Now, confirmed a summer report by Frank Seravalli that the Vancouver Canucks were interested in Labanc. To be clear, Curran could only confirm the Canucks’ interest, but not any specifics of a potential deal.

REPORT: Labanc for Myers Trade on the Table?

Also, to be clear, this was Vancouver showing interest last off-season. The NHL-best Canucks have seemingly moved on with a pair of expensive acquisitions in Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov this year.

So Labanc’s best chance for a fresh start might be finishing his time in the San Jose Sharks organization strong, then signing elsewhere in the summer.

On the surface, Labanc could be a fantastic value signing, perhaps like a Stefan Noesen, who has developed into an inexpensive power play specialist for the Carolina Hurricanes. Over the last two seasons, and on a veteran’s minimum contract, the 31-year-old has put up 63 points in 129 games, playing fourth-line even strength minutes but with a steady PP role.

Ironically, Noesen’s career revival occurred after leaving the Sharks in 2021.

There’s no doubt that Labanc believes that history can repeat itself: “I know that I’m not playing, but I know what I’m capable of when I do get out there on the ice.”

Labanc on His Struggles: ‘I still have a lot of confidence’

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