2012-13 San Jose Sharks RFAs: Which Should Be Re-Signed?
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Before making it official that head coach Todd McLellan would return for next season, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson recently confided that there were "probably five or six" free agents the team would not re-sign.
He would not elaborate. Some could be restricted free agents and some could be unrestricted. So which ones should stay and which should go?
The first any GM will look at is their restricted free agents. These players are at the mercy of the team they are under contract with if they want to play in the NHL.
Barring a trade or release by that franchise, they are extremely unlikely to be signed away because of the sacrifice involved. And it goes well beyond their right to match other teams' offers.
If a player is worth keeping, the team only has to offer about $1 million to force any competing team to give up draft picks to sign their player away. The better the player, the bigger the offer and the larger the sacrifice.
Thus far, few teams have even extended offers to other teams' RFAs—it is more common to go through a summer without one than with one. Fewer still have been unmatched, and none since 2007.
So the only question that coaches and management face with a restricted free agent is, do we want him? If he is an NHL player, he will come at a bargain and offer hope of improvement.
Here is a look at every RFA decision the Sharks have this summer and what I would do.
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In the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, Justin Braun was exposed.
In his only game for the San Jose Sharks, he was out of position when a goal was scored. It would be his only postseason action after 28 regular season games.
It may have also provided him focus. He bumped three players with more experience to wind up No. 5 on the blue line. Though he scored only two goals and nine assists in 66 games, he is skilled enough to be an asset on the offensive end.
He was not statistically impressive in his own end. He had just 46 hits (low even on the Sharks), 66 blocks (low only on the Sharks) and 16 takeaways (above average given his ice time).
But he was almost always where he needed to be. Getting there is half the battle, and he will develop those other defensive skills. He has the potential to be a second-pair player this year and a No. 2 guy down the road.
If the Sharks match offers under about $1.2 million—still less than they are paying Jason Demers—they can force a team to give up a third-round pick for the former seventh-round selection. If they believe in him as I do (from what I can tell on television), they might want to match anything under $1.75 and force another team to give up a second-round pick.
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I put "Tommy Wingels" into the Getty Images search to get a photo of the young San Jose Sharks forward. Six of the first eight photos that came up were with him in front of the net, including five in the offensive end.
That tells you all you need to know.
The 6', 190-lb. forward was the second-smallest player on the NHL roster last season, but played well in front of both nets. He had the third-most hits (102) on the Sharks despite playing in an average of under 14 minutes in just 33 games.
A natural pivot, he can hold his own in the faceoff circle if called upon from the wing. His speed and competitiveness make him an ideal penalty killer. He has a good giveaway/takeaway ratio.
He also scored three goals and six assists—over a point per four games is decent given his ice time. At 23, there is every reason to believe he can become a two-way, second-line winger in the near future earning enough ice time to score 40 points.
I would match any offer to Wingels that requires his new team to compensate the Sharks. I would not match any offer much above that, as there is no shortage of checking line options. And while he has potential, his sample size is too small to count on.
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Andrew Desjardins was the most underrated player on the San Jose Sharks in 2011-12.
Desi had the team's best giveaway-takeaway ratio (25-37), blocked 49 shots and leveled 93 hits despite averaging below 10 minutes in the 76 games he played. He won 53 percent of his faceoff attempts.
He also scored 17 points, or about one per four games. That is exceptional scoring for a fourth-line forward, and while it is true he played among the top six when the Sharks had injury problems, he also showed he is not far from being able to play that role.
This is after playing in just 17 games (three points) the previous season and collecting a goal in three playoff games. There is no reason to believe he cannot make the next jump to everyday player and 15 minutes per game.
At 25, he is worth investing in. Unless someone pays him enough to have to include a draft pick in the package, I would match their offer.
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T.J. Galiardi did not have such a good run with the San Jose Sharks last season. He was said to be rescued by the Sharks, for whom the trade could be one of the worst in franchise history.
The 23-year-old winger got into Joe Sacco's doghouse in Colorado and could not get out. There were rumblings that Galiardi needed to be "fixed" in San Jose.
If that is indeed the case, he is worth a look.
This is a player who has already had a 37-point season. He has excellent speed and is known as a penalty killer because of his physicality and stick. It is worth taking a role of the dice on him to see if he can redeem his one-point, minus-two 14-game audition with the Sharks last spring.
That being said, I do not think I would match any offer of $1 million or more, even though it would not give the team a pick in compensation. Though he is young, he has underperformed in multiple seasons to just one good one. There are other alternatives available for less than $1 million even among the team's own free agents.
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When the San Jose Sharks were struggling to score goals late in the year, they should have turned to Benn Ferriero.
Ferriero played just 12 minutes per game in just 35 games. Yet he scored seven goals, including four game-winners—good for third on the team.
Ferriero had only one assist but was careful with the puck, with only three giveaways to nine takeaways. He had 43 hits and just 13 blocked shots, but the biggest issue for him was being out of position. In the end, coach Todd McLellan just did not trust him.
However, the alternatives are not much better. Bury Ferriero on the fourth line with what will be strong defensive linemates and use him occasionally on the second power play. I cannot imagine him providing less than Dominic Moore did in his 23 games for the Sharks.
Obviously no one will offer Ferriero $1 million, so compensatory picks are not even a consideration. But I would consider him for anything under $700,000 depending on how many others could be retained.
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The San Jose Sharks also have a plethora of restricted free agents who made virtually no contribution at the NHL level, but have played at that level in recent years. These are the players the team can let go or sign for insurance if they can re-sign the previous four in this list.
San Jose traded a third-round pick in this weekend's draft for James Sheppard, but he did not play a minute for the franchise. He has been a proven defensive player and had enough talent to be drafted ninth overall in 2006.
At his age, there is reason to hope for the best. But after sitting out a full season after a surgery only needed because of an injury he suffered in his own recreation time, he is a good investment only if he is inexpensive. I would place his value at about $750,000.
Brad Mashinter and Frazer McLaren have barely cracked the NHL in the last couple years. They are scrappy players and Mashinter has some offensive ability, but neither is likely to ever be more than a fourth-line player. I would not pay him over $600,000.
Tim Kennedy is a little more of a proven commodity, but is still worth less than $700,000. Having a few of these guys signed provides the Sharks insurance and the chance to take a further look at players who might develop, both in the minors and here and there in the show.
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If you are still called a prospect when your entry-level contract expires, you had better start looking for a new career. There are also several players the San Jose Sharks could choose to re-sign in that category, but they are probably not worth more than $500,000.
Alex Stalock may be the one exception. Though he has faced only one period of NHL hockey, teams are interested in him and can have him if they are willing to pay him close to $1 million. If the Sharks can keep him for less, they should—and give him a real shot at taking the No. 2 goalie spot away from Thomas Greiss.
If they do not keep Stalock, they should try to re-sign another goalie prospect, Tyson Sexsmith. He has not played regular season NHL games, but shows enough promise to think he can be an NHL goalie.
Nick Petrecki has been ever-so-close to playing at the NHL level, but never made it even when the Sharks went to a ninth defenseman in 2010-11. He certainly has not proved to be worth the $1 million-plus contract he had before, but if the team thinks he's ready they should be willing to pay more than $500,000.
Matt Pelech does not even have 10 NHL games in his career, and is not especially promising at this point. He might not even be worth the roster space, nor might any other restricted free agent on the payroll.