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Sharks re-sign forwards Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Sharks re-signed forwards Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela on Thursday.

Gambrell agreed to a two-year deal, and Suomela to a one-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

The 22-year-old Gambrell has failed to record a point in 11 regular-season games with San Jose, three in 2017-18 and eight last season. He appeared in two playoff games last season, scoring a goal.

Gambrell had 20 goals and 25 assists in 51 games last season for the San Jose Barracuda in the American Hockey League. The former University of Denver star from Bonny Lake, Washington, was selected 60th overall in the 2016 draft.

Suomela had three goals and five assists in 27 regular-season games for San Jose last season. The 25-year-old Finn had six goals and 14 assists in 47 games for the Barracuda. He signed with the Sharks as an undrafted free agent in June 2018.

Joe Pavelski on free agency process, January return to San Jose

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It’s been 10 days since Joe Pavelski signed with the Dallas Stars, officially ending his 13-season tenure with the San Jose Sharks. Some days that reality has hit him, while there are times where it still doesn’t seem real.

In two months time, when NHL training camps open and he’s donning the Stars’ green and white, that’s when Pavelski feels the move will finally sink in.

As he went through the free agency interview period at the end of June, Pavelski still held out hope that things would work out with the Sharks. But with the team tight up against the salary cap ceiling and with a handful of players to re-sign, that hope soon faded.

“The last possible moment you still kind of feel something’s going to come out of left field and happen and get done,” Pavelski told NBC Sports this week. “But as you get to that free agency window and you start talking to teams, you understand that this is real and you’re going to make an important decision and it’s not just for me, it’s for my family and everything that comes with it. We feel like we made a good one.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Nearly three months after suffering a nasty injury during Game 7 of San Jose’s Round 1 series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Pavelski said, “[I] feel like I’ve turned a corner” after needing eight staples in his head and being diagnosed with a concussion.

The Stars had no concerns about his health after signing Pavelski, who had never been through the free agency process before, to a three-year, $21 million deal. When he knew a return to San Jose wasn’t in the cards, he wanted to join a good team that would give him a chance to win. What they have in Dallas checked many of the boxes he was looking for: solid goaltending, good, young exciting defensemen, and a strong forward group that he’ll get to join. He’ll get a chance to get to know one of his new teammates, Tyler Seguin, a little better this weekend as the pair are in a group with T.J. Oshie of the Washington Capitals at the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

Jan. 11, 2020 will be a special date for Pavelski and his family. That’s when the Stars make their first visit to San Jose and the SAP Center crowd and his former teammates will shower him with plenty of love that evening. It’ll be a memorable night, one that the 34-year-old is expecting will be a tough one to get through, but he’s ready to experience the rollercoaster of emotions.

“I don’t know how it’s going to be,” Pavelski said. “Seeing different guys go through it, it looks like it could be a tough night. It’s one of those things, you’ve still got to play a hockey game and it’s going to be a lot of emotions.

“I’m really looking forward to going back. I owe so much to the city of San Jose and how they treated us. The bond is real. The emotions are real, and at the end of the day I’m really going to cherish my time in San Jose.”

You can watch Pavelski, Oshie, Seguin, and NBC’s Jeremy Roenick and Kathryn Tappen, along other celebrities from the sports and entertainment world participate in the American Century Championship golf tournament this weekend from Lake Tahoe. Coverage begins Friday at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and continues Saturday and Sunday on NBC at 3 p.m. ET. You can watch a live stream here.

MORE: Pavelski, Perry missing pieces for Stars?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sharks’ Labanc bets big on himself with team-friendly extension

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For all the talk of potential offer sheets this summer, if you were making a list of prime candidates to sign one and ensure a big raise Kevin Labanc of the San Jose Sharks would be on it.

The 23-year-old Labanc is coming off his third NHL season, one in which he increased his goals and points totals yet again. He’s gone from 8 to 11 to 17 goals and 20 to 40 to 56 points since breaking into the league in 2016-17. He also played well under the spotlight during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs scoring four times and recording nine points in 20 games. Entering restricted free agency this summer, you figured he wasn’t going to break the bank but he was certainly going to earn a nice bump from his $742,500 salary this past season.

Instead, Labanc decided to bet on himself for a one-year term worth $1 million. It’s a head-scratcher of a deal every time you read it. Just last week Timo Meier, who has 108 points in 193 games with the Sharks, signed a four-year, $24 million extension as an RFA. Labanc has 116 points in 214 games and is taking a big risk not cashing in now. Another strong season and he’ll certainly get a longer-term, bigger-money extension next summer as he’ll remain an RFA with arbitration rights, but one year? One million dollars? Just odd.

“It was, I think, just the best decision for myself and for the team,” Labanc said on Monday. “I’m just looking forward to the enhanced role and the upcoming season, and I believe my best hockey is ahead of me.”

“The combination of betting on himself with the situation he’ll be in next year, and the belief he has in himself, that’s exciting to us,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “We have no problem taking care of our own guys as they grow and evolve.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Stranger was the fact that Labanc, who said he was “comfortable” and “confident” with the contract, added that he was not approached by any NHL teams about signing an offer sheet. He would have had to have been interested in signing one, of course, but surely you would have thought many teams would have been calling his agent to offer a contract with a longer term and bigger dollars. 

According to the 2019 offer sheet compensation requirements, a deal signed with an average annual value of between $2,113,717 and $4,227,437 would require a team to surrender only one second round pick. An AAV offer in the $4,227,438 to $6,341,152 range would cost one first-round pick and one third-round pick. Labanc would have surely fallen somewhere between those two areas if a team really want to try and pry him out of San Jose.

As we wait to see if Joe Thornton will decide to come back on another one-year deal, the Sharks are a little more than $5 million under the salary cap ceiling, per Cap Friendly. Take Jumbo’s AAV, add that to the likely deals for RFAs Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela, and the probable return of Patrick Marleau, and it’s going to be a tight fit. Labanc’s team-friendly deal helps a lot here.

“It’s an important contract for us, but also a great opportunity for a guy whose game is just going to grow,” said Wilson.

With Joe Pavelski off to Dallas and Gustav Nyquist heading to Columbus, the opportunity is there for more ice time for Labanc. He averaged 14:01 a night last season and he’s part of a young core of Sharks forwards who will continue to develop together.

“I definitely see myself taking a bigger role,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunity up there, and I think last year was a stepping stone for me to kind of prove myself that I can handle that top-six role. I’m looking forward to next season and I’m looking forward to be one of the top players on the team.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Sharks re-sign RFA Labanc to one-year deal

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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.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

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.

With Labanc’s deal now completed, the next order of business for Wilson and the Sharks will be working out a new contract with Joe Thornton and re-signing restricted free agent Dylan Gambrell.

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.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Who should Sharks trade? Rangers need to be patient

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Mats Zuccarello felt like the Minnesota Wild were the team that wanted him the most. (Minneapolis StarTribune)

• Now that free agency has opened, how do the Dallas Stars stack up against the rest of the Western Conference. (Defending Big D)

• Here’s the list of players the San Jose Sharks may have to trade to open up cap space. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

• How will the Los Angeles Kings line up on opening night and what does their salary cap situation look like? (Mayors Manor)

Brandon Pirri will finally get an opportunity to stick with the Golden Knights on a full-time basis. (Knights on Ice)

• The Chicago Blackhawks may not be done making moves this summer. (NBC Sports Chicago)

• There’s no reason why the Colorado Avalanche shouldn’t be pursuing Jake Gardiner. (Mile High Hockey)

• There’s plenty of optimism surrounding the New York Rangers but they need to remain patient. (Blue Seat Blogs)

• If Justin Williams doesn’t return to Carolina, who should their next captain be? (Cardiac Cane)

• The Hockey News breaks down a list of five players that could send their team to arbitration. (The Hockey News)

• Travis Yost argues that Jake Gardiner will make any team he signs with better. (TSN)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.