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How Can Sharks Create Cap Space to Improve Scoring Depth?

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Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

There’s no doubt that the San Jose Sharks need more scoring punch next year.

After a 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks are 29th in the NHL with 2.57 Goals Per Game.

“It’s tough to win every night and have to play a perfect game when you’re not scoring goals. That margin for error is very small. We need some more depth scoring from different parts of our line-up,” head coach Bob Boughner acknowledged.

But where will the San Jose Sharks dig up more goals in the off-season? At the moment, they have $48.64 million committed to six players, Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Timo Meier. If that’s the Sharks’ core, that leaves just $34 million dollars for 10 other forwards, four other defensemen, and two goalies.

Suffice to say, the Sharks will have to find some value scorers from either within or from the outside – some more Alexander Barabanovs or Jonathan Dahlens. According to CapFriendly, Barabanov is tied for 10th among all Standard Contract players in Cost Per Point, while Dahlen is 13th.

The San Jose Sharks will also have to manufacture cap space – divvying $34 million dollars among 16 players is not going to be easy.

It’s also worth noting that Barabanov is a UFA and Dahlen is an RFA with arbitration rights – so they’re not going to be the bargains that they were anymore.

This is how they might realistically manufacture cap space.

Let’s assume that during the upcoming Trade Deadline, the San Jose Sharks add to their war chest of draft picks by retaining salaries (like they did with Nick Foligno and Mattias Janmark during the last Deadline).

First, they buy out the remaining four years of Vlasic’s contract. It will be painful, but it’s hard seeing any team being willing to take on the rest of Vlasic’s contract otherwise.

This is what a Vlasic buyout looks like:

SEASONSAVINGSCAP HIT (SJS)
2022-23$3,312,500$3,687,500
2023-24$5,562,500$1,437,500
2024-25$2,812,500$4,187,500
2025-26$1,812,500$5,187,500
2026-27-$1,687,500$1,687,500
2027-28-$1,687,500$1,687,500
2028-29-$1,687,500$1,687,500
2029-30-$1,687,500$1,687,500

So that will free up $3.3 million dollars for 2022-23.

Next, I’d trade a third-round pick, to dump the last two years of Radim Simek’s contract. According to sources, that’s a fair incentive for another team.

That frees up $2.25 million dollars for each of the next two years.

How about Nick Bonino, who has a $2.05 million AAV on a contract that’s expiring next year? Or Kevin Labanc, who has $4.725 AAV with two years left?

I still like Bonino’s game, but he’s slightly overpaid for what he is now, a fourth-line center. The two-time Stanley Cup champ has more value than say a Simek, so I wonder if somebody will take him off my hands for a fifth-round pick? For a contending team, Bonino could still be a high-end 4C.

Meanwhile, Labanc is just 26, has a history of scoring, and has rock-bottom value at the moment. I don’t anticipate anybody taking on his hefty contract, so it might be best to simply ride it out with Labanc and hope that he can rehabilitate his on-the-ice reputation. Timo Meier did it, so can Labanc.

So here’s how the San Jose Sharks are looking without Vlasic, Simek, and Bonino. We’ve kept a handful of the other 2022-23 contracts on board:

FORWARDS2022-23
Hertl, Tomas$8,137,500
Couture, Logan$8,000,000
Meier, Timo$6,000,000
Labanc, Kevin$4,725,000
Balcers, Rūdolfs$1,550,000
Nieto, Matt$850,000
Reedy, Scott$842,500
TOTAL$30,105,000
DEFENSE2022-23
Karlsson, Erik$11,500,000
Burns, Brent$8,000,000
TOTAL$19,500,000
GOALIES2022-23
Reimer, James$2,250,000
Hill, Adin$2,175,000
TOTAL$4,425,000
DEAD CAP2022-23
Martin Jones$2,416,667
Marc-Edouard Vlasic$3,687,500
TOTAL$6,104,167

That’s $60.14 million dollars devoted to seven forwards, two defensemen, two goalies, and Martin Jones and Vlasic.

That leaves about $22.3 million for six forwards and five defensemen.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but after we add some hopefully NHL-ready minimum or near-minimum salary players from within to our mix, our leftover money will look more promising.

Forwards William Eklund, John Leonard, and Noah Gregor – and defensemen Nikolai Knyzhov, Jaycob Megna, and Nicolas Meloche – are my first choices. Leonard, Gregor, Knyzhov, Megna, and Meloche are projected contracts. Save for Eklund, these players aren’t waiver-exempt either.

FORWARDS2022-23
Hertl, Tomas$8,137,500
Couture, Logan$8,000,000
Meier, Timo$6,000,000
Labanc, Kevin$4,725,000
Balcers, Rūdolfs$1,550,000
Ekulnd, Wiliam$925,000
Nieto, Matt$850,000
Leonard, John$874,125
Reedy, Scott$842,500
Gregor, Noah$787,500
TOTAL$32,691,625
DEFENSE2022-23
Karlsson, Erik$11,500,000
Burns, Brent$8,000,000
Megna, Jaycob$900,000
Knyzhov, Nikolai$787,500
Meloche, Nicolas$787,500
TOTAL$21,975,000
GOALIES2022-23
Reimer, James$2,250,000
Hill, Adin$2,175,000
TOTAL$4,425,000
DEAD CAP2022-23
Martin Jones$2,416,667
Marc-Edouard Vlasic$3,687,500
TOTAL$6,104,167

We’re now at $65.16 million dollars for 10 forwards, five defensemen, and two goalies. That leaves about $17 million dollars for three forwards and two defensemen.

Of course, the San Jose Sharks have to lock up RFA defenseman Mario Ferraro – and I’m choosing to keep RFAs Jake Middleton and Jonathan Dahlen. I’m going to let Barabanov walk if he wants too much money – while I’d rather have Barabanov at say $3 million than Labanc at $4.725, I’m resigning myself to Labanc’s contract. And I think I can find a more well-rounded forward than say a Barabanov for $3 mil.

Here’s how I estimate Ferraro, Middleton, and Dahlen’s next contracts:

FORWARDS2022-23
Hertl, Tomas$8,137,500
Couture, Logan$8,000,000
Meier, Timo$6,000,000
Labanc, Kevin$4,725,000
Balcers, Rūdolfs$1,550,000
Dahlen, Jonathan$1,500,000
Ekulnd, Wiliam$925,000
Nieto, Matt$850,000
Leonard, John$874,125
Reedy, Scott$842,500
Gregor, Noah$787,500
TOTAL$34,191,625
DEFENSE2022-23
Karlsson, Erik$11,500,000
Burns, Brent$8,000,000
Ferraro, Mario$5,000,000
Middleton, Jake$1,500,000
Megna, Jaycob$900,000
Knyzhov, Nikolai$787,500
Meloche, Nicolas$787,500
TOTAL$28,475,000
GOALIES2022-23
Reimer, James$2,250,000
Hill, Adin$2,175,000
TOTAL$4,425,000
DEAD CAP2022-23
Martin Jones$2,416,667
Marc-Edouard Vlasic$3,687,500
TOTAL$6,104,167

The San Jose Sharks love Ferraro, so I’m giving him six years at $30 million dollars. Here’s how I arrived at that figure:

EXCLUSIVE: Ferraro’s Agent Says “Mario Would Like to Stay Long-Term” with Sharks

Dahlen got off to a hot start but slowed down, while we have to hope that Middleton isn’t a one-year wonder, so I won’t give these players as much term or AAV. Balcers’s contract last year might actually provide a framework for Dahlen:

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

Anyway, we’re now at $73.16 million dollars with 11 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies.

That leaves about $9 million dollars for two forwards via free agent or trade? Can the San Jose Sharks add a pair of legitimate middle-six forwards with that money? My preference would be to concentrate on getting a strong 3C first, then leaving the rest of the money for winger help.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten waiver-exempt prospects like Jasper Weatherby, Jeffrey Viel, Ryan Merkley, Santeri Hatakka, or Artemi Kniazev – I’d just like for them to seize a job, not have it handed to them. Reedy might also need some AHL seasoning, so I’m not opposed to inking a cheap veteran 4C option too.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Evander Kane’s grievance. What will that do to San Jose’s cap space?

The San Jose Sharks head into the off-season with more questions than answers – hopefully, there are some answers in this space.

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