Thornton: 'We have a team we feel can play with anybody'
TJ Galiardi: "I want to be here. I’m not afraid to admit it at all." (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, Sharks Insider Kevin Kurz will present 10 suggestions (one per weekday) for what the Sharks should do before training camp opens in mid-September. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below.
No. 8 -- Sign the restricted free agents to one-year deals
The Sharks have four notable restricted free agents in defenseman Jason Demers and forwards Andrew Desjardins, TJ Galiardi and James Sheppard. It’s very likely that the Sharks will qualify and sign all four of them. Among that group, only Desjardins would be an unrestricted free agent next summer, as he will be 27 years old by then.
In other words, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson can sign Demers, Galiardi and Sheppard to one-year contract extensions without fear of losing them next summer for nothing. And that’s what he should do.
We’ll start with Demers. The defenseman’s season got off to a bad start when he was hurt in his final game in Europe before the lockout ended, and he missed the first seven games with a wrist injury. He played in just 22 games overall, with one goal and two assists for three points. He never played more than seven straight games, coming out as a healthy scratch or an injured player. Demers suffered a high ankle sprain on April 18, and played in just one playoff game as a forward before the Sharks were ousted (he dressed in Game 5 against the Kings, primarily in case defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was not able to play through a broken foot).
A one-year deal for Demers makes sense, though, as he can still fill the role of depth defenseman and he’s a likeable guy among his teammates off of the ice. At the very least, Demers is a right-handed, puck-moving defenseman, and another club could very well overpay to take a flier on the 24-year-old, maybe before the season starts or before he's even signed.
Galiardi had a productive second half of the season after he was essentially a non-factor in the first half. After he was scratched on March 16 in Los Angeles, Galiardi had four goals and six assists for 10 points in the final 21 regular games. He had just three points up until the start of that stretch.
In the playoffs, Galiardi continued to play with Brent Burns and Joe Thornton, giving the team some valuable minutes on the second line even though he finished with just one goal and one assist in 11 postseason games.
After the season, he kept no secrets about preferring to return to the Sharks.
“I want to be here. I’m not afraid to admit it at all,” he said. “I’m restricted anyway, so I think chances are I’ll be here, unless something crazy would happen. Ever since I’ve found that role and responsibility and trust of the coaches, I’ve had a lot of fun. I think I’ve kind of found my place here, and I don’t want to have to leave already.”
Galiardi sounds like he’d be willing to sign a multiple-year deal, but the Sharks would be better served waiting to see if he can play consistently for a longer period of time before they commit to him. So, again, a one-year extension makes the most sense here.
As for Desjardins and Sheppard, neither has done anything to warrant anything longer than a one-year deal.
Even though he’d be a pending UFA next summer, Desjardins (two goals, one assist in 42 games) needs to do more before he deserves a multiple-year extension. Sheppard’s season was a success in that he was able to return after missing three years from a major knee injury, but he’s still a project, and looked exhausted at the end of the season after one goal and three assists in 32 regular season games. Both Desjardins and Sheppard were scoreless in 11 playoff games.