With the signing of Alexei Melnichuk, Aaron Dell may have already played his last game with the San Jose Sharks.
In early May, the San Jose Sharks made a splash by signing up-and-coming Russian goalie Alexei Melnichuk to a two-year entry-level contract. It bodes well for the team in the net but could be bad news for veteran goaltender Aaron Dell.
In addition to the signing of Melnichuk, Dell is an unrestricted free agent this offseason and has yet to receive an extension from San Jose.
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After graduating from the University of North Dakota in 2012, Dell went undrafted and joined the Allen Americans (ECHL). He would go on to bounce around the minor leagues playing for the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL) and the Abbotsford Heat (AHL).
Dell first joined the Sharks in 2014 to play for the now-defunct Worcester Sharks. He put up a respectable 15-8 record and a .927 SV% in his stint in Massachusetts.
He suited up in the inaugural season for the San Jose Barracuda the following year. He continued to shine in the AHL that season, he finished the year with .922 SV% and a 2.42 GAA.
His play with the Barracuda resulted in his call-up to the NHL for the first time in his career. As the backup to Martin Jones, Dell initially thrived with the Sharks. In year one with the team, he posted an 11-6 record, 2.00 GAA and a .931 SV%.
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It was more of the same for Dell in 2017-2018, the season included a 15-5 record along with a .914 SV%. The following season was when Dell began to show a significant decline in his play. He finished the year with a less than impressive 3.17 GAA and .886 SV%.
In the 2019-2020 campaign, he struggled, as many Sharks did this season. Dell finished the year with a 12-15 record and a 3.01 GAA.
Outside of Melnichuk and an expiring contract, there are a number of factors that pose a threat to Dell returning.
First and foremost, Barracuda star Josef Korenar is a restricted free agent and is expected to re-sign and stay with the franchise. Korenar will likely suit up with the Barracuda next season but is another viable option to fill the back-up role.
Additionally, the Sharks have reportedly been exploring options to bring in stand out New York Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev. The 24-year old Russian phenom has the potential to be one of the best goalies in hockey within the next few years.
Finally, the free agency market for back-up goalies is extremely promising for teams looking to fill the role.
Some of the names that could be on the market for a back-up role include the likes of Robin Lehner, Thomas Greiss, and Anton Khudobin. While Sharks fans should be grateful for everything Dell has done for the team, it is clear that it is time to move on.
Team Teal has a plethora of options to replace Aaron Dell, including players already within the organization, players on the trading block, and veteran free agents.