The San Jose Sharks announced on Monday afternoon that they have signed restricted free agent forward Kevin Labanc to a one-year contract.
The team did not announce the financial terms of the deal, but Kevin Kurz of the Athletic reports it is worth only $1 million.
Both the one-year term and the low salary are a little bit of a surprise given how much progress Labanc made this past season and how much consistent improvement he has shown over his first three years in the league.
He will once again be a restricted free agent following the 2019-20 season and have arbitration rights.
“Kevin took a big step forward in his production last season and has grown into an important part of our team here in San Jose,” said general manager Doug Wilson in a team statement. “He’s always had a dangerous shot but really stepped into a playmaking role for us last season and improved his 200-foot game as well. We think he still has even more potential to tap into and we’re excited to see what he can do with an elevated role with this talented group.”
The 23-year-old Labanc appeared in all 82 games for the Sharks this past season, scoring 17 goals to go with 39 assists, setting career highs in both categories.
His production, in terms of goals and points as well as his possession numbers, have increased every season he has been in the league.
If that progression continues during the 2019-20 season (and if he gets the bigger role he is hoping for, it should) he could be in line for a significant contract extension next summer.
It is difficult to call this one-year deal a “prove it” contract for Labanc because he has already shown he can perform at a top-six level, but it still kind of has that feel to it. Almost as if the Sharks want to see him do it again, and in a bigger role, before they really invest in him long-term.
There is also the possibility of a Patrick Marleau reunion after his contract was bought out this summer by the Carolina Hurricanes (following a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs).
After re-signing Labanc the Sharks have around $5.5 million in salary cap space, so it is possible another roster move will have to be coming this summer.