Melker Karlsson

What is the Sharks’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the San Jose Sharks.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The San Jose Sharks had a strong core for years that helped lead to consistent playoff appearances over the last decade. But general manager Doug Wilson is looking for the next crop of players to usher in a new era of hockey in San Jose. Joe Thornton and Brent Burns are still around but the organization is relying on Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson and others to lead the franchise for the foreseeable future.

The Sharks stumbled this season through the first 70 games and currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. San Jose will not even be rewarded with a top draft pick due to the trade with the Ottawa Senators for Karlsson in September of 2018.

Thornton entertained the idea of waiving his no-movement clause at the NHL Trade Deadline if a true contender wanted to acquire the savvy centerman. There was a lack of interest but if Thornton is interested in chasing the Stanley Cup next season, there is a strong chance he will not be back in the Bay Area.

Despite the horrific season in San Jose, there is still plenty of talent on the roster. Timo Meier led the team in points with 49, Evander Kane was closing in on a 30-goal season and Karlsson still had 34 assists in only 56 games. In addition, Couture and Hertl missed time with injuries and should provide further offensive firepower.

Long-Term Needs

The most glaring weakness for the Sharks has been their play between the pipes. Martin Jones had a sub .900 save percentage and a 3.00 goals against average. The 30-year-old goaltender still has four additional years remaining on his contract and will be a difficult asset to move via trade.

San Jose also has significant cap space tied up in several long-term contracts and has to solve problems from within. Between Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Karlsson, the Sharks have more than $26 million committed through 2024-25.

Looking at the forward group, Couture, Kane, Meier, Hertl all have lengthy contracts and Kevin Labanc will need a new deal after taking an extraordinarily team-friendly agreement last summer. Similar to every NHL team, Wilson and his staff need to find the right pieces at a bargain price to fill out the roster.

Long-Term Strengths

The Sharks have taken great pride in building a culture that allows players to thrive. Thornton was a key figure in building the foundation, but he has passed on the characteristics of a strong locker room to his teammates.

Trade acquisitions are able to seamlessly fit in both on and off the ice while young players looking to earn their stripes at the professional level feel comfortable right from the beginning.

While Thornton could switch uniforms in the upcoming offseason, it will be up to Couture, Burns and others to make sure that culture isn’t lost.

The Sharks struggled mightily with the departure of Joe Pavelski this past summer but are too skilled to have a second straight dreadful season. If their play in net can improve, and key players can remain healthy, the Sharks could bounce back next season.

MORE ON THE SHARKS
• Looking at the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks
• Sharks biggest surprises and disappointments so far


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

Sharks stick with GM Doug Wilson — for better or worse

Sharks Doug Wilson vote of confidence
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The San Jose Sharks are sticking with GM Doug Wilson despite a huge letdown of a season.

Majority owner Hasso Plattner gave Wilson a vote of confidence on Thursday. While it makes sense to comment on a disappointing season, it’s interesting to see it in an official release.

“While we are all very disappointed in the team’s performance thus far this season, Doug has a long history of leading our team to success,” Plattner said as part of the statement. “The last time we failed to meet our winning standards in the 2014-15 season, we were able to quickly rebound and re-establish a winning culture for the next several years. I am supportive of Doug’s plan to get our team back on track.”

Wilson has overseen a long run of Sharks success

Wilson deserves credit for a remarkably strong and consistent run since being named GM in May 2003. The oft-tanned executive must make other GMs feel like he’s a shark smelling blood at times. While the Joe Thornton trade is Wilson’s masterstroke, he often wins other trades — sometimes by a lot.

The Sharks have also won a lot since he took the reins.

The Sharks won four Pacific Division titles in a row from 2007-08 to 2010-11, grabbing the 2009 Presidents’ Trophy along the way. Those peak years ended with heartbreak, yet a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final silenced a lot of the “choker” claims.

Each time the window appeared ready to close on the Sharks, Wilson would pull a rabbit out of a hat, drafting gems like Logan Couture or trading for key players such as Brent Burns.

Sharks seem stuck

Unfortunately, the 2019-20 season might represent Wilson running out of magic.

Strangely, the Sharks are so stuck that they might just be better off sticking with Wilson, though.

An incoming GM would only be able to do so much about an aging, expensive defense and other concerns. So, again, hoping Wilson has some tricks up his sleeves ranks as an understandable gamble.

Back on Jan. 13, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported (sub required) that the Sharks are looking more at a “reset” than a tear-down, trades-wise. LeBrun points to sensible pieces to auction, such as defenseman Brenden Dillon and defensive-leaning forward Melker Karlsson.

Maybe Wilson could pull off a sequel to getting a bucket of picks for marginal players, like he did with Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray in 2013? If anyone can pull that off again, it’s Wilson.

The Sharks see little incentive to tank since Ottawa owns their 2020 first-rounder anyway. Taking baby steps seems like the only reasonable option, really.

How Wilson must succeed where he once failed

For all of the smart (and/or “smart at the time”) moves Wilson made, goaltending continues to doom the Sharks. Navigating that problem with better results should be Wilson’s top priority, even if it’s a tricky challenge.

Martin Jones served as a nice answer for a while, but the Jones – Aaron Dell tandem has been a disaster for some time. The Sharks could no longer outscore such problems in 2019-20. Jones and/or Dell show up on the wrong end of far too many charts like this GSAA one from Charting Hockey:

Jones, 30, stands as one of the more cringe-inducing Wilson contracts. He’s been abysmal, has a no-trade clause, and the $5.75M AAV runs through 2023-24. (You just cringed, didn’t you?)

(Did I mention that a different GM would face a huge mess if they wanted to blow this up? Yeah, it’s a dicey situation.)

Whether it’s making life easier for Jones or finding a different answer in net, the Sharks need to fix this. Doing so quickly is crucial, too, with an aging core.

Honestly, many of us — probably Wilson included — figured that this team would hit a wall eventually. It’s just that the wall popped up faster than expected, and the Sharks went splat.

It’s up to Wilson to make sure that the Sharks leap over that hurdle next time around, kind of like a … well, a killer whale.

Otherwise it could be, you know, crushing.

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.

Kings’ Martinez undergoes surgery after scary wrist injury

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Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez had to exit Monday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks after he was involved in a collision with Melker Karlsson, resulting in a scary wrist injury that required surgery.

As Martinez was diving to the ice in an attempt to knock a loose puck away from his net, Karlsson was engaged with Kings forward Anze Kopitar and was knocked off balance skate-first into Martinez’s arm. Martinez exited the game and, according to the Kings, had to undergo surgery at Keck Medicine of USC to repair a radial artery and two superficial radial nerves.

That sounds absolutely terrifying.

The Kings also announced on Tuesday that Martinez is expected to make a full recovery and that he will be evaluated weekly.

There is no timetable for his return to the lineup.

Here is a look at the play.

The 32-year-old Martinez has spent his entire 11-year career with the Kings and has one year remaining on his contract after this season.

The highlight of his career came during the 2013-14 postseason when he scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal in a Game 5 overtime win against the New York Rangers, giving the Kings their second championship in three years.

Given his age, contract status, and the current state of the Kings’ organization he is one of the players that seemed to be a likely candidate to be traded in the coming months as the team looks to the future. The important thing now, though, is his recovery from a scary injury that did not turn out to be even worse than it did.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Golden Knights, Sharks renew their rivalry

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks. Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Golden Knights were defeated by the Sharks in OT of Game 7 in Round 1 last April after a controversial major penalty was called on Vegas’ Cody Eakin for a cross-check to Joe Pavelski in the third period with the Knights leading 3-0. San Jose scored four times on the man-advantage, while Vegas tallied a goal late to force overtime. Barclay Goodrow won it for San Jose in OT and secured one of the most improbable comebacks in postseason history, leading the Sharks into Round 2.

On Tuesday, Sharks forward Evander Kane was suspended three games for physical abuse of an official, stemming from an altercation with Vegas’ Deryk Engelland in San Jose’s final preseason game. Kane swung his stick at Engelland in response to a cross-check, but got a piece of the ref in the process. Then, the ref grabbed Kane and both fell to the ice. Kane appeared to shove the ref while getting back to his feet.

“I get kicked out of the game for getting jumped from behind by a referee,” said Kane. “I’ve never seen a ref take five strides. If you look at his face, he’s getting all this power and he’s trying to drive me into the ice, which is what he did. That’s unbelievable. Talk about abuse of an official? How about abuse of a player? It’s an absolute joke.”

The Sharks and Knights open the season with a home and home series. They open the season Wednesday in Vegas, before meeting again on Friday in San Jose. Vegas is 5-1-2 all-time against San Jose in the regular season. They’ve split their only two playoff meetings.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights
WHERE: T-Mobile Arena
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Sharks-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

SHARKS
Timo MeierLogan Couture – Danil Yurtaikin
Lean Bergmann – Tomas HertlLukas Radil
Marcus SorensenJoe ThorntonKevin Labanc
Melker Karlsson – Barclay Goodrow – Dylan Gambrell

Marc-Edouard VlasicBrent Burns
Brenden DillonDalton Prout
Mario Ferraro – Tim Heed

Starting goalie: Martin Jones

GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith
Max PaciorettyCody GlassMark Stone
Brandon PirriPaul StastnyValentin Zykov
William CarrierTomas NosekRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt
Jon MerrillShea Theodore
Nick Holden – Deryk Engelland

Starting goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury

Brendan Burke and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call of Sharks-Golden Knights from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

The Playoff Buzzer: Big night for Blues’ Binnington, Barbashev and Bozak

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  • The St. Louis Blues matched a franchise record for playoff wins in a single postseason.
  • Jordan Binnington was outstanding in net.
  • Ivan Barbashev picks a great time for his first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

St. Louis Blues 2, San Jose Sharks 1 (Series tied 2-2)

The St. Louis Blues’ power play has been a big trouble spot this postseason but is finally starting to show some signs of life. It scored the game-winning goal on Friday night in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks to even the Western Conference Final at two games apiece. After that goal, which gave the Blues a 2-0 first period lead, everything fell on the play of their defense and starting goalie Jordan Binnington, and all of them were up to the challenge to help them bounce back from Wednesday’s controversial overtime defeat.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues. He has been a little up-and-down throughout these playoffs and that has been especially true in the Western Conference Final series against the Sharks. He has had two tough games, giving up five goals in each, and two outstanding games. Friday was one of the outstanding games as he stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced in the Blues’ huge Game 4 win. It was also a night of milestones for him (more on that in a bit in the factoids).

2. Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis Blues. Barbashev picked a great time to score his first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring just 35 seconds into the first period to help get things started. A fast start is always important, but it was especially true for the Blues in this game after the way Game 3 went for them. Falling down early after that loss would have been a potentially crushing swing, but they were able to get out in front early and never look back.

3. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks. This result wasn’t his fault. Not even close. Jones was actually one of the biggest reasons this game was still reasonably close early on as the Blues dominated the scoring chances early in the game and really carried the play at the start. Bozak’s game-winning goal was a fluky play that went in off of his teammates skate and he mostly played well enough to get the result. He was the tough-luck loser in Game 4. Sometimes it happens.

Highlights of the Night

This is the fast start the St. Louis Blues needed.

Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, and the Blues definitely got some here when Bozak was credited with the power play goal that turned out to be the difference in the game.

One of Binnington’s best saves of the night is this one as he casually snags Melker Karlsson‘s shot out of the air after Karlsson found himself wide open in front of the net.

Factoids

  • Friday’s win is St. Louis’ 10th of the postseason, tying a franchise record for most wins in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • Speaking of those 10 wins, Binnington has been in net for all 10 of them and is the first goalie in Blues franchise history to win 10 games in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • He is also the 10th rookie goalie to win 10 games in a single postseason. [NHL PR]

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.