With the NHL playoff race getting down to the wire, we’ll be providing regular updates on each bubble team’s postseason push.
Bubble team: San Jose Sharks
Where they stand: 3rd in the West (first in the Pacific Division), two points clear of ninth-place Los Angeles
Games remaining: 6
SportsClubStats.com says: 79.1% chance of making the playoffs
Why they’ll get in:
A renewed confidence. The Sharks are 6-2-1 since a miserable month-and-a-bit of poor play. Monday they smoked Colorado, 5-1, for their third straight victory – a win that lifted them into first in the Pacific Division. This is unfamiliar territory for San Jose, a team that’s used to clinching a playoff spot well before the final game of the season. But lately the players seem to be responding.
Why they won’t:
Four of their last six games are on the road, where the Sharks are a mediocre 15-15-7. In fact, San Jose has just two road victories in its last 12 tries. And while most of those losses came during the aforementioned “miserable month-and-a-bit of poor play,” it was miserable in part because of all games away from the Tank.
“Lately we’ve been having fun playing, guys are smiling. Not that we weren’t before but maybe we were a little more uptight when we were losing, and didn’t want to make a mistake. Guys are going out there playing more free and things are working out.” – Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Biggest game coming up:
Thursday at the Coyotes
In slightly less interesting Los Angeles Kings news than the latest in the Mike Richards fiasco, the team handed Peter Budaj a one-year, two-way deal on Friday.
The veteran goalie’s contract pays $575K on the NHL level and $100K in the AHL (though it’s $150K guaranteed), according to Hockey’s Cap.
At the moment, it sounds like Budaj will be third on the Kings’ goalie depth chart. That says as much about how things have been going lately for Los Angeles than Budaj’s work on a PTO.
As noted above, one of the more significant moves in Budaj’s favor came when the New York Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off of waivers this week.
The Kings actually waived Budaj before signing him, so this has to be a relief to a goalie with a fairly robust resume as a backup.
All apologies to Budaj, but it’s probably true that the Kings would prefer not to see him at the NHL level very often in 2015-16.
The Los Angeles Kings announced today that they have “reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his NHL Standard Players Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties.”
The club said that it will not be commenting further “on the terms” of the settlement.
The NHLPA released a similar statement.
It was reported earlier in the week that a settlement was close to being reached; however, it wasn’t clear what salary-cap penalties the Kings would incur.
We’re starting to find out some details now:
How the final numbers differ from what the Kings would have incurred if they’d bought Richards out will be interesting to see. And if there are differences, how will they be justified?