The San Jose Sharks will have a decision to make on a number of free agents this offseason. But which players might the team look to re-sign?
The San Jose Sharks‘ 2019-20 season has likely come to an unceremonious end as a result of the leaguewide postponement across the NHL. However, in many ways, it was a perfect summation of what was a disappointing season, to say the least.
The Sharks entered the season with high hopes after falling just two games shy of a Stanley Cup appearance in 2019. However, questions regarding the team’s offseason moves carried into the regular season.
Now looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it’s safe to say that those preseason questions were as valid as could be.
At the time of the stoppage, the Sharks currently hold the third-worst winning percentage in the NHL sitting at 29-36-5 — the worst record in the Western Conference. Not exactly how they saw their season going.
But all of this means that the Sharks can officially move on to offseason mode. And with only a late-first-rounder to play with, free agency could be of even more importance than usual.
However, before the Sharks can think about signing external free agents, they must first decide which internal free agents they’ll bring back.
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Which of the Sharks’ nine unrestricted free agents will the team look to bring back?
Without a doubt, the most intriguing name to watch will be Sharks legend Joe Thornton. Thornton was nearly traded at this year’s deadline and will need to be convinced that he could compete for a championship next season with the Sharks.
The 40-year-old loves San Jose, but he’s still in search of his first Stanley Cup victory. That could push him to leave the place he’s called home for the past 15 years.
But make no mistake about it, the Sharks will do everything in their power to make sure he’s back next season.
Others who the Sharks will likely extend offers to include veteran depth forwards Melker Karlsson and Stefan Noesen. The team saw firsthand just how valuable forward depth is this season and while neither is particularly exciting, they’re at least competent, experienced bottom-six forwards.
And in reality, that’s not exactly a luxury for the Sharks at the moment.
Perhaps they could also look to bring back defenseman Tim Heed who played well in Erik Karlsson‘s absence late in the season. Heed could compete for one of the six defenseman spots next season and serve as quality depth if he doesn’t win a starting job.
In terms of players that will need a miracle to be back, we could throw in defenseman Dalton Prout as a result of his ever-present injury concerns. The concussions have become a problem and it’s hard to see San Jose re-signing him.
A similar thing could be said for goalie Aaron Dell who played some of the best hockey of his career at the beginning of 2020. However, the Sharks will likely be looking to freshen things up at the position and could bring someone else in to push Martin Jones.
Perhaps someone younger and with more upside than Dell.
At the end of the day, it’s safe to bet money on Thornton returning, but it’s far from a guarantee. Out of the eight others, Karlsson, Noesen, and Heed have the best chance of re-signing.
This offseason will be crucial as the San Jose Sharks look to get back on the right track. And it will all start with their re-signing decisions.