The San Jose Sharks’ offseason has been a whirlwind of “what now??” that could leave heads spinning when taking a moment to sit down and reflect on it all.
No Sharks skater, and perhaps no NHLer at all, has had a more tumultuous offseason than Evander Kane, who was accused of throwing games to pay off bookies, allegations of sexual assault and domestic abuse during a messy divorce, and most recently, Kane was accused of submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccine card to the NHL.
Sharks teammates have said they don’t want Kane on the team anymore. San Jose reportedly tried to trade Kane but couldn’t find a deal. The team is preparing to start this season without Kane, who has been a consistent 20-goal scorer, knowing that league discipline could take effect at any moment.
As they proceed, here’s what you’ll need to know about the rest of the team ahead of the 2021-22 season.
The Sharks are running with a new goaltending tandem this season, and it already looks like a considerable upgrade over last year.
Ahead of the expansion draft, the Sharks acquired former Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill. Though he was third in Arizona’s pecking order the past several seasons, injuries regularly pressed him into action. In 2021, Hill went 9-9-0 with a 2.74 GAA, a .913 save percentage, and two shutouts. There may be some bumps in the road this season as Hill settles into the starting role, but at 25 years of age, the hope is that Hill turns into the long-term starter in San Jose.
Backing up Hill is former Carolina Hurricanes goaltender James Reimer, who signed with San Jose in free agency. Reimer has been a high-end backup/fringe starter over the past few years, particularly impressing with a 15-5-2 record last season. He also had a 2.66 GAA, and a .906 save percentage.
Though Hill will still be the starter, Reimer is certainly capable of splitting time and can keep the Sharks swimming even in a backup role. Even if both put up average numbers, not even great numbers, that would be a huge upgrade over last season.
Holding down the bottom-six forward group, the Sharks signed Andrew Cogliano. A player who seldom misses time, Cogliano holds the record for the seventh-longest consecutive games played streak at 830 (his streak ended in 2018 while serving a two-game suspension for interference). Though he’s lost a step at age 34, Cogliano is still a reliable penalty killer and a solid two-way forward.
Joining Cogliano in the bottom six, Nick Bonino signed as a free agent in San Jose. Bonino is a quality center, winning more than 51.5% of his faceoffs in each of the past four seasons. He can play on the penalty kill while chipping in 10-15 goals, which would be great production for his current role with the Sharks.
Patrick Marleau, arguably the face of the franchise along with Joe Thornton, was not re-signed when his contract expired and he is currently a free agent. Marleau holds the NHL’s all-time games played record, breaking Gordie Howe’s mark last season. However, at the age of 42, Marleau’s NHL career is likely over.
The Sharks couldn’t pave the way for a new goaltending tandem without first clearing out the old guard. After sending Devan Dubnyk to the Colorado Avalanche at last season’s trade deadline, San Jose traded Josef Korenar to Arizona in the Adin Hill deal. They also bought out the final three years of Martin Jones’ contract (Jones has since signed with the Philadelphia Flyers).
Defenseman Greg Pateryn left in free agency as well and has since signed with the Anaheim Ducks. Pateryn wasn’t a great fit in San Jose after arriving in the Dubnyk trade, but he could be a top-six D-man with Anaheim.
Ryan Donato is gone as well. The winger who just hasn’t panned out, Donato shows flashes of being a capable NHLer but hasn’t been able to put everything together and be a successful, consistent skater. He signed with the Seattle Kraken, his fourth team in five seasons.
San Jose also parted ways with Kurtis Gabriel (now with the Toronto Maple Leafs), Christián Jaroš (who has since signed with New Jersey), and Maxim Letunov.
Impact Player to Watch
While all eyes will be on the Evander Kane situation, as well as on the new goaltenders, another important player to watch is Tomáš Hertl. A true 1C, Hertl is an excellent two-way player who the Sharks would like to keep in the organization for the duration of his career.
And though that’s the current plan, Hertl is in the final season of his contract. If he decides to test free agency, especially if it means joining up with a team that is closer to playoff contention, Hertl could have one foot out the door already.
To prevent losing him for nothing, Hertl will be in great demand at the 2022 trade deadline, and the Sharks should be able to fetch a haul for his services. Hertl tallied 74 points in 77 games during the 2018-19 campaign, and he’s been just under a point per game pace each of the last two seasons. He’s also an excellent penalty killer, which will only drive up his value for postseason play.
San Jose’s approach with Hertl will speak volumes about the short and long-term vision for the franchise.