Stefan Noesen

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.

Undermanned Penguins shut down Blues: 3 takeaways

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins were facing quite the challenge on Wednesday night.

They had just lost two games in a row, were playing without seven regulars in their lineup (Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, and Jack Johnson), and had the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues roll into town riding a four-game winning streak where they had been dominating everyone they faced.

All the Penguins did was put together one of their best and most complete efforts of the season in a convincing 3-0 win.

Three big things that stood out from this one.

1. There might be a goalie controversy in Pittsburgh, at least for now. With No. 1 goalie Matt Murray mired in a month-long slump, backup Tristan Jarry has been getting more starts over the past couple of weeks and got the call again on Wednesday in a huge home game.

He took advantage of the opportunity and stopped all 28 shots he faced to record his first shutout of the season (and the third of his career).

With that performance he is now up to a .936 save percentage for the season and has earned the win in five of his past six appearances, allowing only 10 goals in those games.

“He was terrific,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan regarding Jarry’s play on Wednesday. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now and is seeing the puck well.”

He also added that Jarry was the team’s best penalty killer on a night where the unit was a perfect 4-for-4

Murray is still probably going to end up being “the guy” in Pittsburgh this season, but with the team trying to fight through an absurd injury stretch they are going to need goaltending to help carry them until they start getting some players back, especially on the blue line.

Right now Jarry is the goalie giving them the best chance.

2. Next man up. After losing wingers Rust and Hornqvist in two different practices over the past week (while already being without Crosby and Bjugstad) the Penguins were quite literally running out of forwards and had to sign veteran Stefan Noesen to a two-way contract. He had been playing for the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on a minor league deal, and was thrown into second-line duty on Wednesday.

He ended up making an immediate impact by scoring a goal late in the second period to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

The most impressive thing about the Penguins’ performance on Wednesday is that it was not the big-name players making the impact. The trio of Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and Kris Letang combined for zero points in the win, while only one of them (Malkin) was even on the ice for any of their three goals (he was on for one). It was the depth players that stepped up and made the impact with Noesen, Teddy Blueger, and Alex Galchenyuk (only his second goal of the season in 20 games) scoring the goals.

As great as the Malkin, Guentzel, and Letang trio is they are not going to score every night, meaning someone else is going to have to chip in some offense for the team to have a chance with so many players out.

They received those contributions on Wednesday.

3. Binnington was a bright spot for the Blues. Jordan Binnington may have given up three goals, but he also made a handful of huge saves that kept this game close and at least gave his team a shot. It is also kind of tough to really fault him too much for the ones that went in. Blueger’s goal to open the scoring in the opening minute came off a deflection right in front, and he was kind of left on an island on the final two.

One of the biggest questions for the Blues this season in their repeat attempt was always going to be whether or not his success from a year ago was something he could sustain over a full season. There has been nothing in his play so far this season to suggest he can not.

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.

Ducks hire Eakins for AHL gig

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Dallas Eakins has landed back behind in the bench — but in the American League, not the NHL.

On Friday, the former Edmonton head coach was named the new bench boss of the San Diego Gulls, Anaheim’s AHL affiliate. The move returns Eakins to the league in which he got his coaching start; he started as an assistant with the Toronto Marlies in 2005, eventually taking the head coaching gig before an ill-fated stint in Edmonton.

With the Gulls — previously the Norfolk Admirals — Eakins will get to work with a number of Anaheim’s young prospects, which could include former first-rounders Stefan Noesen, Shea Theodore and, possibly, Nick Ritchie, who the club took 10th overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

Prior to accepting the San Diego job, Eakins had been on the radar for Philly’s then-vacant coaching spot — later filled by Dave Hakstol — and also interviewed for the head coaching gig in WHL Vancouver.

During his one-and-a-half seasons in Edmonton, Eakins compiled a 36-63-14 record.

It’s Ottawa Senators day on PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Ottawa Senators.

Last season ended on a low note for the Senators getting humbled by the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After barnstorming Montreal in the first-round, fans in Ottawa had high hopes for a deep run. Once the offseason began, things got a bit more exciting for some of the wrong reasons.

Offseason recap

Ottawa fans were left stunned when captain Daniel Alfredsson decided to return for another season but not for the team he’d been playing since the mid-90s for. Alfie signed with Detroit and spurred GM Bryan Murray to pull off a stunning deal with Anaheim to acquire Bobby Ryan. While they gave up a lot of their own high-level youth (Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen) to get him, Ryan gives them a four-time 30-goal scorer, something Alfredsson hadn’t been since 2007-08.

Acquiring Ryan wasn’t their only move. Clarke MacArthur joined the fold after leaving Toronto and Joe Corvo returned to town to replace Sergei Gonchar who was dealt to Dallas. Add that extra offense to a team that figures to have a healthy defensive corps (and team all around) and underrated goalie Craig Anderson and you’ve got a team many believe will challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Talk is cheap but after being this summer’s “It” team, expectations are higher than ever in Ottawa.

Related:

Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series

PHT Morning Skate: Joffrey Lupul was having a hard time in Russia

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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.

Joffrey Lupul wasn’t just having a rough time getting reservations in Toronto, he found life in Russia difficult as well. Even talking to girls is hard there! (AskMen.com)

No, the heirs to the Stanley Cup won’t be trying to reclaim the trophy. (Canadian Press)

Lockout stuff: Donald Fehr says he’s waiting on the NHL to come talk to the players. Care to guess what the league is waiting on? You got it. (CSNPhilly.com)

Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says it’s way past time to get things settled. (Tribune-Review)

Stefan Noesen talks about being forced to miss World Juniors thanks to his 10-game suspension in the OHL. (Senators Extra)

Nick Kypreos and Doug MacLean will coach the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game. (Sportsnet)

You totally want to vote for Louie, the St. Louis Blues mascot for Cartoon Network’s “Most Awesome Mascot” award. (Blues, Cartoon Network)

Today marks Day 96 of the NHL lockout and it might be time to call in Tomas Holmstrom’s backside to help get this whole thing squared away.

Finally to lift your spirits, the University of Vermont women’s hockey team want to sing a Christmas classic to you. (YouTube)