Sharks unrestricted free agents: Outlook on Marleau, Nabokov, Blake

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bunchasharks.jpgIn the last post, I took a “big picture” look at the San Jose Sharks salary cap situation. The team has enough interesting free agent situations that I feel like their most noteworthy unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents deserve devoted posts. Now, keep in mind, this isn’t based on “insider” tips but rather a look at each scenario.

First, here’s the full list of unrestricted free agents for the Sharks.

Marleau, Patrick
Nabokov, Evgeni
Blake, Rob
Wallin, Niclas
Nichol, Scott
Malhotra, Manny
Vesce, Ryan
Ortmeyer, Jed
Groulx, Danny
Callahan, Joe
Doyle, Frank
Helminen, Dwight
Leach, Jay

Let’s take a look at the big three. It’s worth noting that the team may really want to bring back Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra, as well. After the jump, I’ll break down the situations for Marleau, Nabokov and Blake


nabbygoesbye.jpgPatrick Marleau

2009-10 season stats: 44 goals, 39 assists for 83 points

2009-10 playoff stats: 8 goals, 5 assists for 13 points

Two years removed from an abysmal 48 point season, Marleau put together one of his best years. He hit a career-high 44 goals skating often with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. He was also, by far, the best source of offense for the Sharks against Chicago. He scored five goals and one assist in the series, meaning that he factored into all but one goal in the sweep.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the team stripped Marleau of the captaincy last summer. There also must be a great market for a high-scoring, swift skating and versatile forward like Marleau. My guess is that another team – maybe the Kings? – could price the Sharks out. They’ll have to hope for a hometown discount from Marleau, which is less likely after that “give us back the C” thing.

It seems like a coin flip to me, but if I had to guess right now, I’d say he might be back.

Evgeni Nabokov

2009-10 season stats: 44-16-11, 2.43 GAA, 92.2 save pct.

2009-10 playoff stats: 8-5-2, 2.52 GAA, 90.7 save pct.

I have to admit that last year’s playoffs against the Ducks changed my view on Nabokov. It tempered his successes (like his great regular season) and made his struggles (such as an ugly game in the Olympics against Team Canada) seem less surprising. Still, the Sharks depended on Nabby a lot this season, playing him in 71 games.

Many guess that he won’t be back next season and that seems like a reasonable assumption. One big reason: like Ilya Kovalchuk, Nabby might elect to take big money with the KHL. Even if he stays in the NHL, Nabokov is going to get paid a lot.

I just don’t think the Sharks will be the team paying him big money.

Rob Blake

2009-10 season stats: 7 goals, 23 assists for 30 points

2009-10 playoff stats: 1 goal, 1 assist for 2 points

Rob Blake is old. Pretty soon he’ll inherit all of those Chris Chelios old jokes like a big family passes down clothing.

The thing is, Blake is like Chelios in that he keeps providing solid-to-good play as he defies age. My gut feeling is that he would retire, but who knows, really? It’s really Blake’s choice. At the right price, I’m sure the Sharks would have him back.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think all three will be back? None of them? Somewhere in between? Do tell in the comments.

Report: Beauchemin signs on for third stint with Ducks

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Francois Beauchemin will once again be playing for the Anaheim Ducks, according to TVA Sports and Renaud Lavoie.

The contract reportedly comes with a base salary of $1 million and the potential to earn roughly $500,000 more in performance bonuses.

This would be Beauchemin’s third stint with the team. He played with Anaheim for parts of four campaigns from 2005-06 through 2008-09. Along the way he averaged a staggering 30:33 minutes per game in the playoffs during the Ducks’ 2007 championship run. His second stint with the club spanned parts of five seasons from 2010-11 through 2014-15. As was the case during his previous run, Beauchemin was a workhorse and in the 2013 lockout shortened season he also finished fourth in the Norris Trophy vote.

Beauchemin spent the last two seasons with Colorado. Although he’s 37-years-old now, Beauchemin has only missed one game over the last two seasons and still averaged 21:31 minutes in 2016-17.

Despite that, Colorado decided to buy him out this summer, which freed up a protected list spot for the expansion draft and created an opening for the club’s younger defensemen as the Avalanche focus on rebuilding.

Given that defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen might start the season on the sidelines, adding another blueliner capable of serving in a top-four role like Beauchemin has the potential to be a big boost for the Ducks.

Gaborik unlikely to be ready for start of training camp

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Marian Gaborik‘s recovery from a non-surgical procedure to address his “chronic” knee issue will likely bleed into training camp.

“He’s progressing pretty well from the summer,” Kings GM Rob Blake told LA Kings Insider. “He still has some difficulty with some of the lifts and the strength. We’re probably not sure if we’ll see him in training camp right away, but again, he’s a guy that trains at a very high level and he’s made a commitment to stay in L.A. after he got married, get the rehab back on course. We’re hopeful he can get back to the level that he started last season and the World Cup at.”

Gaborik has been an elite scorer at times during his career, but injuries have been a recurring issue for him. Over the past four seasons he’s played in 220 of a possible 328 contests and he’s been limited to 43 points in 110 games over the last two campaigns.

That’s particularly worrying given that the 35-year-old forward still has four seasons left on his seven-year contract worth roughly $34 million. At the same time a bounce back campaign out of Gaborik would go a long way towards addressing the offensive woes Los Angeles endured in 2016-17.

Under Pressure: Jaroslav Halak

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This post is a part of Islanders day at PHT…

No goaltender went through a season that could be more accurately called a roller coaster than Jaroslav Halak.

The veteran netminder entered the campaign immediately following a superb showing in the World Cup, but he struggled in the first half of the season to the point where he cleared waivers and was then sent to the minors on Dec. 31. Rather than fade away though, he got a second wind in the AHL. That led to him being called up on March 23 and shining in the finals weeks of the campaign.

So after all that, what’s next for Halak? Will he excel like he did towards the end of the season, struggle like he did at the beginning, or end up being wildly inconsistent yet again?

He’s down to the final season of his four-year, $18 million deal and Thomas Greiss has emerged as a strong alternative for the starting gig with the Islanders. Greiss is entering the first season of a three-year, $10 million deal, so he is more firmly established as part of the Islanders’ plan than Halak, but Greiss’ contract isn’t so expensive or long-term that the Islanders can’t re-sign Halak too if the situation calls for it. Especially if Halak were to step up and become a major part of guiding the Islanders back into the postseason after their disappointing 2016-17 showing.

What the presence of Greiss does though is give Halak little leeway in order to reestablish himself as that type of goaltender. If Halak even has a bad October, he might find himself set more clearly in the backup role beyond that.

Perhaps the Islanders are looking to Greiss as their future though and have little interest in Halak beyond this season. Maybe they would prefer a younger and/or cheaper pairing with Greiss once given the flexibility that Halak’s contract expiring affords them. Even in that scenario, this would still be a critical season for Halak as he’ll need a strong showing in order for him to find a gig elsewhere. After all, it wasn’t long ago that the entire league said they didn’t want his contract and while he’s bounced back since then, he still needs to prove this season that he’s worth a new deal.

The goaltender market is always a tough one, especially for those seeking a starting job, but for a great netminder that’s a nonissue. Halak has played at that level at various points of his career. He needs more than ever to be that goaltender again.

Gallant thinks Golden Knights can ‘win and compete consistently’ during inaugural season

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What can we expect from the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18? No one really knows what they’ll look like once they hit the ice because they’ve never played together before.

Of course, the expectation is that they’ll be bad, which is fair considering the track record expansion teams have in pro sports. But are they gonna be “Colorado bad” or will they be able to hold their own more often than not?

“I knew we were going to have a pretty decent team, but the team was better than I thought,” head coach Gerard Gallant said, per NHL.com. “I thought we got better top-end players than I thought we’d get.

“So I think we did a real good job building our team. Is it good enough to win and compete consistently? I think it is.”

Through the expansion draft, Gallant’s team was able to find themselves a quality number one goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and a relatively young backup in Calvin Pickard.

After parting ways with defensemen like Alexei Emelin and Marc Methot, the Golden Knights are left with solid options like Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, and veterans like Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa and Brayden McNabb. That’s a decent group for an expansion side.

Up front is where things get a little more complicated. They signed Russian free agent Vadim Shipachyov and picked James Neal, David Perron and Reilly Smith during the expansion draft, but they’re also light on scoring depth.

“There’s going to be issues,” added the Golden Knights head coach. “Some nights we’re going to have trouble scoring goals. You look at our roster, there’s a lot of good players. Are there any superstars there?”

It’ll be interesting to see how Vegas’ first year in the NHL will unfold under Gallant and general manager George McPhee’s watch.