How would you steer the San Jose Sharks?
Two years out of the post-season, Doug Wilson is opting for a “reset.” That’s not another word for a rebuild.
“There’s no reason why we can’t be back in a very good position by next season,” the San Jose Sharks GM said in March.
“I think rebuild is a plan where it’s multiple years and it’s a longer process and I don’t think that’s what’s going on here,” Bob Boughner said in May. “I think the difference is a reset is a quicker process to get to where you want to go, still trying to accomplish the same things, protecting assets, building through some drafts, and also, getting the right veterans.”
A week later, Wilson backed up his head coach’s point in his exit interview: “I think this hockey team has some really good core pieces.
“We think this can be a good hockey team.”
Patrick Bacon would beg to differ.
Yesterday, the 24-year-old analytics whiz (and life-long San Jose Sharks fan) shared his thoughts about the 2021 NHL Draft and the Sharks system.
Today, he tells San Jose Hockey Now how he’d turn his favorite team around.
First and foremost, a change of attitude.
“This team is not going to win the Stanley Cup tomorrow. They’re not going to win the Stanley Cup the day after that,” Bacon stressed. “Those things are not happening, get it out of your head.”
Next, Bacon would get rid of three long-term contracts this summer.
“Get whatever you can for [Brent] Burns and [Logan] Couture and [Evander] Kane,” Bacon said. “It’s possible that Burns or Couture have these big rebound seasons and increase their value. But at their age, that’s increasingly unlikely. Another team is going to pay the most for them right now, because they’re going to get the highest percentage of their good years in terms of aging curves.”
The 36-year-old Burns has four years left on his contract, $8 million dollars per season; the 32-year-old Couture has six years left at $8 million per; the 29-year-old Kane has four years left at $7 million per.
Bacon is aware that “get whatever you can” probably means not a lot.
The San Jose Sharks can get more for Burns, Couture, and Kane if they pile on draft picks as sweeteners on top of these contracts, but Bacon would prefer that they retain salary instead: “If you’re not trying to win a Stanley Cup for the next few years, does it really matter if you’ve got this 18-and-a-half million in ugly money on the books?”
Certainly, Bacon would try to protect San Jose’s first-round picks, at least.
By the way, per Puckpedia, the “maximum retention % is 50 %. Teams can only carry a maximum of three Retained Salaries at a time…The maximum amount of retained salary by a team is 15 % of the Salary Cap for the current year.”
Burns, Couture, and Kane’s contracts are one thing. Their performance is still at a high-enough standard that they should command a return, especially with salary retained. How about Martin Jones, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic?
“We’re not winning a Stanley Cup today, or tomorrow. We might as well throw that out the window and look at what helps us win a Stanley Cup in five years,” Bacon offered. “So that means don’t do anything with Martin Jones, just let his contract expire in three years.”
Jones has three years left at $5.75 million per. So no buyout. What about the elephants in the room?
“See what you can do with Vlasic and Karlsson,” Bacon advised. “If you can trade Vlasic at 50%, maybe you do it? Or maybe you just wait for a buyout? I wouldn’t force anything; I wouldn’t rush anything.”
The 30-year-old Karlsson has six years left on his contract, $11.5 million dollars per season; the 34-year-old Vlasic has five years left at $7 million per.
Basically, trade any big contracts with positive value, sit tight on the shorter-term or harder-to-trade long-term commitments. That’s a rebuild.
What about Tommy? 27-year-old Tomas Hertl is set to be a UFA after next year. Is he a building block for the San Jose Sharks today…or many tomorrows from now?
“I’m just mad on everybody’s behalf. Hertl is my favorite player. And yet, I’m so mad my favorite team didn’t trade him at the Trade Deadline,” Bacon said. “Because one, you need to get assets for him, he’s not going to be in his prime when you’re ready to win a Stanley Cup again. Two, the player deserves to be playing for a Stanley Cup.
“He’s a number-one center in the NHL. He’s one of the 31-best centers in the league. Any playoff team could have used him. And they could still use him right now.”
Hertl is already signed to for a team-friendly $5.6 million dollar cap hit for 2021-22, but Bacon believes San Jose could pump up his value even more like so: “Hertl at 50% [retained] as a rental and then potentially going forward, it can do so much for a team.”
Can you imagine the San Jose Sharks in October without Hertl, Burns, Couture, and Kane?
For this Sharks lifer, it’s a lot of pain for a lot of gain: “Rip the Band-Aid off, do whatever you can to these contracts now, because they’re only going to start to look worse going forward.”
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