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It’s San Jose Sharks day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the San Jose Sharks. 

2017-18
45-27-10, 100 pts. (3rd in the Pacific Division, 6th in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in six games to the Vegas Golden Knights, second round

IN
Antti Suomela

OUT
Joel Ward
Mike Hoffman
Mikkel Boedker
Jannik Hansen
Eric Fehr
Paul Martin

RE-SIGNED
Evander Kane
Joe Thornton
Logan Couture
Tomas Hertl
Chris Tierney
Dylan DeMelo

– – –

The San Jose Sharks proved that life will go on without Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.

The two had been mainstays in the Sharks lineup for years — and a big factor in their success and cohesiveness as a team — but Marleau departed for Toronto prior to last season and Thornton spent roughly half of the season nursing injury.

And still, the show went on.

The Sharks battled to a third-place finish in the Pacific Division with 100 points, securing a date with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round where they swept their California rivals in four games.

It was in the second round where the Sharks hit a road bump, namely Marc-Andre Fleury. They simply couldn’t beat the Vegas Golden Knights goaltender, suffering the same fate as the Los Angeles Kings before them and the Winnipeg Jets after.

But given what they were able to do (mostly) without two of the pillars of the team (at least up until Marleau left), it’s both impressive and assuring for Sharks fans that the talent they’ve developed is able to carry the torch into the future.

The big news of the season came on trade deadline day when the general manager Doug Wilson trade for Evander Kane, injecting the team with a former 30-goal scorer. Kane put up nine goals and 14 points in 17 games with the Sharks after the trade — including a four-goal game — and five more points in nine playoff games, the first time he had played in the postseason.

[Under Pressure: Kane | Breakthrough: Meier | 3 Questions]

The relationship blossomed and the Sharks handed Kane a seven-year, $49 million contract in May. That’s a lot of money for a forward who is now being paid like a franchise player and has yet to record a 60-point season in the NHL.

But there’s optimism.

For one, Kane feels accepted.

“The one thing about this team, this group and this organization is they allow you to be yourself,” Kane told TSN.ca. “They embrace you for who you are and it’s a very unselfish group that makes it super-easy to come into and mesh well with.”

And Kane now has a litany of talent that the Sharks have that can feed him the puck.

Speaking of that talent, the Sharks have made just one addition this summer, signing free agent center Antti Suomela to a one-year contract after he led the Finnish Liiga in scoring with 60 points in 59 games. The Sharks have chosen to focus re-signing their core pieces that are going to propel them for years to come.

Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, Dylan Demelo and Jumbo Joe, who is back for another season at 39 years of age, have all re-upped with the club.

Suomela will compete for a fourth line spot with prospect Dylan Gambrell.

The Sharks still have $4.3 million in cap space, so another late-summer move isn’t out of the question.

Prospect Pool

Ryan Merkley, D, 18, Guelph Storm (OHL) – 2018 first-round pick

Merkley was drafted 21st over this past June and slides right into the top prospect ranking for the Sharks. Merkley is fast. Very fast. And he gets up and down the ice and side to side as quick as anyone. Merkley excels as an offensive defenseman. He had 13 goals and 67 points in 63 games in the Ontario Hockey League this season. He was on a lot of teams’ do-not draft lists but could become one of the best defensemen to come out of the draft.

• Dylan Gambrell, C, 21, University of Denver (NCAA) – 2016 second-round pick

Gambrell has a legitimate shot to make the Sharks as their fourth-line center this season, a spot that will be up for grabs come training camp. The three-year veteran at Denver signed an entry-level contract this past spring and played three games with the Sharks. If he doesn’t make the club, he’ll play with the Barracuda. But Wilson believes Gambrell has the IQ for the NHL.

“We believe his speed, combined with his high-end hockey IQ, make him ready to be an NHL player,” Wilson said when they signed Gambrell. “We are confident that, with his skill-set, he will make an impact with our team.”

• Antti Suomela, C, 24, Jyvaskyla (Liiga) – Free agent signing

Suomela comes into the fold on a one-year, entry-level contract with the Sharks after pacing the Finnish Elite League in points this past season. He helped lead Jyvaskyla to a Champions Hockey League championship and was named to the league’s all-star team. As mentioned with Gambrell, the Sharks have a need on the fourth line and both he and Suomela will be tasked with filling it.

MORE: PHT Time Machine: 1991 dispersal draft and birth of the Sharks

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Golden Knights sign defenseman Engelland to one-year deal

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LAS VEGAS (AP) The Vegas Golden Knights signed defenseman Deryk Engelland on Tuesday to a one-year deal for the upcoming season.

The contract includes a $700,000 base salary and incentives that could bring the total value of the deal to $1.5 million.

The 37-year-old Engelland played in 74 games last season and finished with 12 points and 18 penalty minutes. He set career-marks with 152 blocked shots and 165 hits.

The Knights took Engelland during the 2017 expansion draft.

The team also acquired goaltender Garret Sparks from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward David Clarkson and a fourth-round selection in the 2020 NHL entry draft.

Trade: Clarkson contract back to Toronto; Vegas opens up space

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Nostalgia is in the air, as “The Lion King” remake is in theaters, so maybe it’s time to cue “The Circle of Life.”

In a peculiar bit of salary cap management, David Clarkson – er, David Clarkson’s contract – and the Toronto Maple Leafs are back together again. While Garret Sparks goes to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Maple Leafs receive a fourth-round pick for their troubles.

Maple Leafs get: Clarkson’s contract ($5.25M for one more season), Vegas 2020 fourth-round pick.

Golden Knights receive: Cap relief even though they were going to send Clarkson to LTIR; a decent goalie consideration with Garret Sparks.

This is all about cap and asset management for both teams.

Clarkson was headed to LTIR whether his contract stayed in Vegas or matriculated to Toronto, and now his deal can be neighbors with Nathan Horton after they were exchanged. The Maple Leafs still have some work to do, naturally, as they need to fit Mitch Marner into the mix. The numbers might melt your brain a bit.

The Golden Knights still need to sort out their own issues with Nikita Gusev lingering as a fascinating RFA, and that resolution hasn’t come yet. In the meantime, or maybe instead, the Golden Knights took advantage of extra wiggle room to bring back veteran (and Vegas-loving) defenseman Deryk Engelland for a cheap deal.

Depth goaltending also buzzed around these moves.

Again, Sparks represents an interesting consideration for Vegas, as Malcolm Subban hasn’t been an unqualified solution as Marc-Andre Fleury‘s backup. Perhaps Sparks would end up prevailing after both of their contracts expire following the 2019-20 season?

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs opened up room for a depth option as well, as they confirmed that Michal Neuvirth has been invited to training camp on a PTO.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

It kind of makes you want to dig up that Charlie Kelly mailroom conspiracy board to try to cover all the ins and outs, but the bigger picture takeaway is that the Maple Leafs and Golden Knights continue to work on their cap conundrums, and this trade was really just another step in the process.

At least it was a pretty odd and funny step, though.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Predators are being bold with term; are they being smart?

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If nothing else, the Nashville Predators aren’t afraid to be bold.

In a vacuum, the Colton Sissons signing isn’t something that will make or break the Predators’ future. That seven-year, $20 million contract has inspired some fascinating debates, but the most interesting questions arise around GM David Poile’s larger team building, and his courageous decisions.

As we’ve seen, Poile doesn’t just lock up obvious core players to term, he frequently gives supporting cast players unusual security, too.

This signing seems like a good excuse to dive into the Predators’ biggest offseason decisions, and also ponder maybe the biggest one of all: what to do with captain Roman Josi, whose bargain contract will only last for one more season.

The interlocking P.K. Subban, Matt Duchene, Roman Josi situation

By any reasonable estimate, the Predators got hosed in getting such a small return for Subban in that deal with the Devils.

Of course, the Predators’ goal wasn’t necessarily to get a great return for Subban, but instead to get rid of Subban’s $9M to (most directly) sign Matt Duchene, and maybe eventually provide more leeway to extend Josi.

There was some argument to trading away Subban, as at 30, there’s a risk that his $9M AAV could become scary.

The thing is, the Predators only seemed to expose themselves to greater risks. It remains to be seen if Matt Duchene will be worth $8M, even right away, and he’s already 28. Roman Josi turned 29 in June, so if Josi’s cap hit is comparable to Subban’s — and it could be a lot higher if Josi plays the market right — then the Predators would take even bigger risks on Josi. After all, Josi’s next contract will begin in 2020-21, while Subban’s is set to expire after 2021-22.

So, in moving on from Subban to Duchene and/or Josi, the Predators are continuing to make big gambles that they’re right. Even if Subban really was on the decline, at least his deal isn’t going on for that much longer. Nashville’s instead chosen one or maybe two even riskier contracts at comparable prices, really rolling the dice that they’re not painting themselves into a corner.

There’s also the scenario where Josi leaves Nashville, and things could get pretty dizzying from there.

Even if you look at it as a Matt Duchene for P.K. Subban trade alone, that’s not necessarily a guaranteed “win” for Nashville. It’s all pretty bold, though.

[This post goes into even greater detail about trading Subban, and the aftermath.]

Lots of term

Nashville doesn’t have much term locked in its goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros, which is wise, as goalies are very tough to predict. Those risks are instead spread out to a considerable number of skaters, and Poile’s crossing his fingers that he’s going to find the sweet spot with veterans, rather than going all that heavy on youth.

The long-term plan has frequently been fruitful for the Predators, as Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25M for five more seasons) and Filip Forsberg ($6M for three more seasons) rank as some of the best bargains in the NHL. Josi’s $4M is right up there, though that fun ride ends after 2019-20.

Your mileage varies when you praise the overall work, though, because some savings are offset by clunkers. It stings to spend $10.1M in combined cap space on Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino, especially since $16M for Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen ranks somewhere between “the price of doing business” and “bad.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

So that’s the thing with locking down supporting cast members. It’s nice to have a defensive forward who seemingly moves the needle like Colton Sissons seems to do …

… Yet is he a bit of an extravagance at $2.857M per year? Again, that’s a matter of debate.

The uncomfortable truth is that, if the Predators are wrong about enough of these deals, then it’s that much tougher to wiggle your way out of mistakes. Yes, maybe the Predators can move Sissons if he slides, but you risk falling behind the pack if you lose value propositions too often.

Will that be the case with the Predators? We’ll have to wait and see, and the most fascinating test cases come down the line. If it doesn’t work out next year, in particular, then things could pretty uncomfortable, pretty quickly.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sissons, Predators agree to seven-year, $20 million deal

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We see long-term deals with high annual average values.

We see short-term deals with lower annual average values.

But rarely do we see long-term deals with low annual average values. Like less than $3 million low.

Yet, despite the rarity of such a pact, David Poile and the Nashville Predators have become some sort of trendsetters in getting plays to sign lengthy deals worth a pittance annually.

Colton Sissons becomes the second in the past three years to sign on with the Predators long-term at a small AVV. Sissons new deal, avoiding arbitration, is a seven-year contract worth $20 million — an AAV of $2.85 million.

“Colton will be an important part of our team for the next seven seasons, and we are happy he has made a long-term commitment to our organization and the city the Nashville,” Poile said. “He’s a heart and soul player who is versatile and can fill many important roles on our team, including on the penalty kill and power play. His offensive production has increased each season, and he remains an integral part of our defensive structure down the middle of the ice. Colton is also an up-and-coming leader in our organization, which is something we value strongly.”

Poile seems to have no issue signing depth guys to lengthy deals. In 2016, he signed Calle Jarnkork to a six-year deal worth $12 million. In fact, he’s the only general manager to pull of such moves.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Both players have chosen security over maximizing earning potential.

Sissons, 25, had a career-year last season, scoring 15 goals and 30 points in 75 games.

His AAV is in the ballpark of what was projected. Evolving Wild’s model had him making $2.65 million. What wasn’t foreseen is that term.

EW’s model projected a three-year contract for Sissons with a 30.2 percent probability of coming to fruition. But what percentage of chance did EW give a seven-year contract? 0.4 percent.

Anything is possible, kids.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck