How Offseason Roster Changes Affect 2013-14 San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have been as inactive in 2013 NHL free agency as any team. Even the moves they have made were almost limited to keeping the same team that was on the ice for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Does this make sense when that team failed to win half the games it needed to?
The Sharks were playing very well with the unit they had going into the playoffs despite Martin Havlat's injury. They may have been able to handle the rest of the league had they not been so thin at forward in the Western Conference Semifinals.
San Jose was ironically the better team in that series everywhere but net. After dominating throughout the condensed NHL season, Antti Niemi had a great series against the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately, Jonathan Quick was even better.
Besides, keeping players is the best the Sharks can really do. Because Havlat's injury prevents any roster moves before the season starts, they cannot spend up to the cap.
The only way they would not have lost more players than they gained in free agency was to buy someone out. There were no players needing to be re-signed worth a buyout of anyone for whom that was an option.
Nevertheless, there will be nine players different for the 2013-14 Sharks than they dressed during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Three are definitely gone, four are in limbo and two who did not play in May will in October.
T.J. Galiardi is the most significant player lost for the San Jose Sharks. His contract with the Calgary Flames suggests it was not a matter of the cap hit but a person's desire to play near home.
He was not a consistent player and lacked the offensive skill (five goals, nine assists and 14 giveaways in 36 games) it takes to play for long on a scoring line. But just because he was inadequate for the role he played does not mean he is not a solid forward they will regret losing.
Galiardi is a pest that can skate, registering 36 hits, 15 blocks and 18 takeaways. He was not afraid to get dirty, digging pucks out of the corners and attacking the crease.
Even though the San Jose Sharks dressed him every night, Thomas Greiss did not play a second of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. That is why he is no longer with the team.
Greiss is probably never going to be given a No. 1 role. He will not even get a shot at it in 2013-14, going from being stuck behind Antti Niemi to being stuck behind Mike Smith.
Players like that make great backups. His only win in five starts was a shutout, but he had a respectable .915 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average. He will play well enough to give your team a chance to beat lesser teams while your top guy rests.
The trouble is the Sharks have players in the system capable of being a backup. They need to see them in an NHL role to know whether they are worth hanging on to, and Greiss' presence on the roster would have prevented them from even getting enough AHL time in net.
Tim Kennedy did play in three Stanley Cup playoff games during 2013. But that was only because the San Jose Sharks were down three forwards (Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish).
The fact that Kennedy was passed over for playoff ice time by a 32-year-old with just six games of NHL experience says a lot. He played 13 regular-season games, with two goals, no assists, 22 hits, four blocks, six giveaways and nine takeaways in 2013.
Stanley Cup finalists often need their 15th forward at some point, and the Sharks may very well sign a depth forward to essentially replace him. But if they choose instead to promote someone like Matt Pelech or John McCarthy for that rare appearance, it is not likely to affect their record.
Martin Havlat's role with the 2013-14 San Jose Sharks is technically in limbo. However, general manager Doug Wilson has already tentatively stated that he will start the season on long-term injured reserve and thus constitutes a change.
Although in a way, that is the status quo. Havlat spent more than half of his first season out with an injury and missed almost the entire 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. His actions compounded the impact of both injuries, and he was not exactly known for effort when he did dress: 12 hits and 27 blocks in two seasons.
That is why he was shunned by teammates in the press box for the rest of May. He is not coming back. When he is healthy, he will be traded or waived.
The Sharks will miss his skill. When he was feeling it, his creativity was second only to Joe Thornton, his skating second to only Patrick Marleau. But even a checking-line forward that is more reliable would be an improvement.
Scott Gomez played well enough as a role player (primarily fourth line and second power play) to probably earn more than the San Jose Sharks can afford to pay anyone under the 2013-14 salary cap.
In 39 regular-season games, he scored two goals and 13 assists for an offensively challenged team, then added two assists in nine 2013 Stanley Cup playoff games. He is not physical (four hits in the regular season) but is decent blocking shots (11 with limited ice time).
More than anything, he was good at puck possession. He has 20 takeaways and just 21 giveaways despite being the primary puck-handling forward anytime he was on the ice.
If San Jose cannot re-sign him, his dressing room and bench presence will also be missed. Only six forwards had more ice time per game, meaning six forwards would have to be moved up on the depth chart. Only four players are under contract from the playoff roster, meaning his presence on the ice will be felt, too.
Bracken Kearns is an unrestricted free agent. At 32 years old and with only 13 games of NHL experience (no points), including the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, he will be looking for a place where he can compete for a regular fourth-line role.
The San Jose Sharks are not that place. However, he is unlikely to have that chance anywhere and may choose to stay with the team that gave him eight of those games in 2013 (seven in the postseason).
If so, they can definitely afford him. If not, they can definitely replace him.
Finishing the season as the 14th forward, he had 14 hits in the playoffs. However, he looks like a one-dimensional player when he not only does not score but also has just two blocks and one takeaway.
Tomas Hertl is the player in limbo that the San Jose Sharks should most expect to join their roster: GM Doug Wilson crowed to CSN Bay Area last week about the No. 17 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and Kevin Kurz singled out his play in the prospects game.
He will have to make the team, or they will be relying on a career minor league forward dressed every game. He has the skill, playing solid defense and leading his Czech team with 18 goals in 43 games.
But that was not in the NHL. He has never even played a game with NHL rules, rink size or physical play. It is unrealistic to expect a 19-year-old who barely understands English to make a leap to a scoring line in the NHL one year after being drafted.
If he could have made that leap, he surely would have been drafted in the top half of that round. But he does appear good enough on both ends to at least fill a fourth-line role, likely also seeing a little power-play time.
In other words, Hertl is set to take the exact role Scott Gomez had. He has a chance of being that good already.
Alex Stalock is hardly new to the San Jose Sharks. Once among the top goalie prospects in the NHL, his career had an unfortunate setback with nerve damage from a laceration to his leg.
After a full, solid season with the AHL Worcester Sharks, the franchise needs to see if he can handle the NHL. He has a one-year, two-way contract that is cap-friendly just like his only real competition for the vacated backup role, Harri Sateri.
Stalock has been in three NHL games before, going 1-0-1 with a .909 save percentage and an impressive 1.68 GAA. Even though those relief appearances do not add up to one full game, that is more substantial than Sateri's role of emergency backup tallying faceoffs from behind the glass.
The bottom line is that between the two of them, the Sharks should have adequate play from their new backup. They only need this player to take over for Thomas Greiss, who has a 17-16-3 record over his career, with a .912 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.
If they do not work out, the Sharks can easily add a minimum veteran sometime after the season starts through free agency or an affordable trade.
The San Jose Sharks spent a second-round pick to get Tyler Kennedy once they knew T.J. Galiardi was not going to re-sign. They promptly signed him to a two-year contract worth a total of $4.7 million.
Kennedy only scored six goals and five assists in 46 games last year, and that would not even replace Galiardi's production. But he has more history as a scorer and should improve the team's attack.
However, he is not a very good defensive player. He can skate with his man and even throw an occasional check (41 in 2013), but he lacks Galiardi's ability to get in the way of shots (nine blocks) or steal the puck (nine takeaways).
Offensive skill is more valued than defensive prowess, but the gain is at best equal to the loss while costing $1.1 million more than Galiardi is making with the Calgary Flames.