Ryan Dadoun

Alex Stalock

San Jose Sharks ’15-16 Outlook

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The last time the San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs in back-to-back years was in 1996 and 1997, but they’re in danger of it happening again.

Whether or not they’ll be able to prevent that will depend largely on their goaltending. With Antti Niemi gone, San Jose is going with a combination of Alex Stalock and Martin Jones between the pipes. There’s certainly potential there, but the duo only has 83 games worth of NHL experience between them.

Stalock wasn’t that great last season either and while Jones had an impressive 2.25 GAA in Los Angeles last season, his .906 save percentage left something to be desired. Besides which, Los Angeles only called on him 15 times last season and just 11 of those were starts. So it’s entirely possible that neither will be ready to take the reigns in 2015-16 and that alone could sink the Sharks.

If their goaltending proves to be adequate though, then they still might run into issues offensively. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will both be 36 years old by the time the season starts and they declined somewhat last season. The Sharks no longer need them to be the team’s offensive leaders, but they do have to be significant contributors and if their age is catching up with them then that could be a big problem.

At the same time though, the Sharks do have reasons to be hopeful. They have some promising young players, including Tomas Hertl, who has shown flashes of brilliance but struggled in his sophomore season. Still, he’s just 21 years old and could be major part of this team going forward. On the defensive side of things, Brent Burns is coming off of a great campaign and newcomer Paul Martin should help solidify their top-four.

San Jose has the potential to be competitive this season, but it all comes back to Stalock and Jones as it’s hard to see this group doing much if neither of those two step up.

It’s San Jose Sharks Day at PHT

Patrick Marleau
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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The San Jose Sharks.

After suffering a reverse sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2014 playoffs, Sharks GM Doug Wilson declared San Jose a “tomorrow team” in a summer that drew confusion and criticism from some, but went “exactly the right way,” according to the general manager. When all was said and done though, the result that San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

At the age of 35, Patrick Marleau took a significant step back offensively as he scored just 19 goals after reaching the 30-goal milestone for five straight campaigns, not including the lockout shortened season. Joe Thornton, who turned 36 in July, also saw a longstanding streak end as he recorded less than 70 points (65) in a season where he played in at least 70 games for the first time since 1999-2000.

San Jose still wasn’t bad offensively. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture recorded 70 and 67 points respectively while Brent Burns tied for second among defensemen with 60 points. The Sharks just weren’t great in that regard though and their goaltending proved to be uninspired as well. Antti Niemi was a mixed bag and Alex Stalock, who had been a superb understudy in 2013-14, declined substantially last season.

With mediocrity being the Sharks’ calling card at both ends of the ice, they finished with a 40-33-9 record and were eight points behind Calgary for the third Pacific Division spot.

Off-season recap

Head coach Todd McLellan and the San Jose Sharks mutually agreed to part ways after failing to make the playoffs, which led to Peter DeBoer being named as the team’s new bench boss.

With that done, Sharks GM Doug Wilson moved on to the team’s biggest question mark going into the summer: the goaltending. Niemi was slated to become an unrestricted free agent and Wilson made his intentions clear by trading the netminder’s negotiating rights to Dallas. He later acquired Martin Jones, who enjoyed two strong season as the Kings’ backup goalie, to battle with Stalock for the top job.

San Jose also signed defenseman 34-year-old Paul Martin to a four-year, $19.4 million contract and forward Joel Ward to a three-year deal worth just under $10 million.

Once again the core of the Sharks hasn’t fundamentally changed, but at the same time the 2015-16 version of the team will certainly feature noteworthy differences from its predecessor.

PHT Morning Skate: Columnist argues Berglund’s injury isn’t a big setback for Blues

Patrik Berglund
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Jeff Gordon doesn’t see losing Patrik Berglund (shoulder surgery) for at least four months as a big blow to the St. Louis Blues. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

What does the Los Angeles Kings’ decision to sign Christian Ehrhoff tell us about the Slava Voynov situation? (Puck Daddy)

Sidney Crosby is enthusiastic about the prospect of playing with Phil Kessel for a lot of different reasons. (DK Pittsburgh Sports)

Shane Doan is happy with the moves the Arizona Coyotes have made over the summer. (Coyotes.nhl.com)

Pavel Datsyuk’s recovery from his ankle surgery seems to be going well. (MLive.com)

Auston Matthews, who might be taken with the top pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, said that the prospect of playing with older competition and for coach Marc Crawford are two of the big reasons he decided to sign with the ZSC Lions. (Arizona Republic)

Kings ink prospect Sharipzyanov to entry-level contract

Damir Sharipzyanov
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The Los Angeles Kings added to their pool of defensive prospects by signing Damir Sharipzyanov to a three-year, entry-level contract, per the team’s website.

Sharipzyanov had nine goals, 34 points, and 59 penalty minutes in 66 games in 2014-15 with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. A native of Nizhnekamsk, Russia, the 19-year-old blueliner made the transition to North America in 2013-14.

Internationally, he played for Russia in the 2014 Under-18 Worlds. While participating in this summer’s training camp for the 2016 World Juniors though, he suffered a wrist injury and consequently won’t be participating in the Kings’ rookie camp, per LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen.

The undrafted prospect is expected to continue his development in the OHL for the 2015-16 campaign.

Sabres interested in luring Franson

Cody Franson
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The Buffalo Sabres already look a lot different from the team that finished in the NHL basement, but they might secure one more significant upgrade before training camp begins.

Cody Franson, who entered the summer as one of the highest profile UFA defensemen, is on the Buffalo Sabres’ radar. They’re hoping to ink the 28-year-old defenseman to a two-year deal, per two NHL sources that spoke to the Buffalo News. PHT’s Dhiren Mahiban has corroborated that Franson is in contract talks with Buffalo.

Buffalo has been cited as a potential destination for Franson in the past along with Pittsburgh and Boston. Among those three teams, the Sabres are in the best cap position by a wide margin as they have roughly $12 million in space, per General Fanager.

Franson had seven goals and 36 points in 78 games last season, despite seeing a significant decline in production after being moved from Toronto to Nashville on Feb. 15. Although the Predators were hoping his presence would bolster their chances of having a long playoff run, GM David Poile in retrospect felt that it wasn’t a good fit, in part because he was a right-handed shot.