This may seem like a familiar topic for San Jose Sharks fans. I even covered it in a three-part series as last season was about to get underway. (The link is to Part 3, but it contains links to the others.)
It warrants revisiting for multiple reasons.
Some things have changed. For instance, my expectation was that Logan Couture would cost about $5 million per season to extend. That is almost double what he was re-signed for, so the team's future is not as bleak as last year's article asserted.
However, the NHL lockout has turned up the heat on all teams built to win now. That certainly includes the Sharks.
Only seven players are on the payroll beyond the 2013-14 season. Six of the top 11 players in total ice time for San Jose last season are already over 30, including three of the top five defencemen and five of the top seven forwards.
Every player over 30 but Martin Havlat and Brad Stuart will have their contract expire in the next 20 months and eight days. Six younger forwards, the backup goalie and a player on the blue line will need to be re-signed no later than July of 2014.
Chances are the Sharks will keep the younger players. That means most of the aging veterans will have to be let go, and those that are kept will not be as good as they are right now. In fact, most of the players in question already had one of their two worst point totals in the post-lockout era in 2011-12.
That is why since the summer of 2011, people close to the organization have been acknowledging the team is running out of time. Boyle—the oldest player on the roster—even suggested to David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News that the window could close during the lockout.
How many good chances do the San Jose Sharks have left to win the Cup?
The good news is that the new collective bargaining agreement is almost certain to make those seven players up for a new contract next season cheap to re-sign. Whether teams have to get down to the cap or get a waiver to exceed it as this season for existing contracts, they will have little left to re-sign free agents.
However, that will not help San Jose. The Sharks will still be less than $10 million from the new cap while being eight players short. Some of these free agents will not be among those completing the roster, even with the buyer's free-agent market.
Thomas Greiss will want to sign somewhere he can play. The Sharks may not even want Douglas Murray and Michal Handzus. Three of the other four players figure to play a major role even if re-signed for a bargain.
Finally, there is a chance that this aging team gets a crack at a shortened season that reduces their wear and tear even more than their early playoff exit last April. (See my possible lockout-ending solutions written for the San Jose Examiner.) If so, their chances will never be better to hoist the Stanley Cup than they are in 2013.