Are Sharks a defenseman short?


Are Sharks a defenseman short?

It was about this time last year that the San Jose Sharks decided that seven experienced NHL defensemen on the roster just wasnt enough.

Currently, the blue line consists of Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brad Stuart, Brent Burns, Douglas Murray, Justin Braun and Jason Demers. Those are, however, the only defensemen in the system with any significant NHL experience. Should the Sharks stand pat with that group, they may be taking a significant risk when the 2012-13 season gets underway.

While the Sharks top five is among the strongest in the league, questions surround the remaining two in Murray and Demers. The 32-year-old Murray suffered through a number of injuries last season, missing 22 games total, and at times had trouble keeping up with the pace of play even when he was in the lineup. The Sharks are expected to have a much more aggressive approach to their penalty killing next season, too, and Murray's role could be reduced in that regard when you consider his lack of foot-speed.

Demers, although still just 24, saw his game take a step backwards last season after a fairly promising 2010-11 campaign. His stats fell from 24 points and a 19 rating in 75 games two seasons ago, to just 13 points and a -8 rating in 57 games last year.

The Sharks do have some young defensemen in the system that were recently high draft picks in Nick Petrecki (first round, 2007) and Taylor Doherty (second round, 2009), both of whom now have an extra year of experience under their belts. A veteran NHL scout recently told me that while Doherty could get in some games next season, Petrecki (still a restricted free agent) looks a ways off from being NHL-ready.

The 21-year-old Doherty, a 67, 235-pounder, had six assists and 76 penalty minutes in 63 games with Worcester last season. He has two years remaining on his entry-level deal, and the Sharks may be better served letting him grow his game in the AHL for one more complete season.

So, what do they do?

Last year, the Sharks decided to sign the veteran Colin White to a one-year deal on August 3, after the New Jersey Devils bought him out of his contract. Hes still an unrestricted free agent, but its highly unlikely the Sharks will consider White after he struggled mightily for most of the season.

There are more attractive options still on the market.

One name that immediately jumps out is Phoenixs Michal Rozsival. The 33-year-old was a top-four defenseman on one of the NHLs strongest defensive clubs, playing more than 19 minutes a night on the reigning Pacific Division champions. As long as hes recovered from a hit he took from Dustin Brown late in the concluding game of Western Conference Finals (which reportedly caused no structural damage), Rozsival would be a solid fifth defender for the Sharks with the ability to jump up and play in one of the top two pairs if necessary.

While Rozsival would be an upgrade to the stay-at-home Murray, St. Louis Carlo Colaiacovo is a veteran of 370 NHL games over parts of nine seasons and is a puck-moving type that would be an improvement over Demers, who plays a similar style.

Sharks fans got a chance to see Colaiacovo first hand in the first round last season, when he had an effective series for the Blues in their five-game triumph over San Jose. A left-handed shot, Colaiacovo has the ability to play on the man advantage and might look good paired with the right-handed Braun on the teams bottom pair.

A more familiar name with a chance to return and provide some depth (and cost much less than either Rozsival or Colaiacovo) is Jim Vandermeer. Even with White struggling and Murray battling injuries, Vandermeer somewhat oddly played in just 25 games last season, but brought a physical edge to the blue line (and even a few times as a fourth-line forward).

Other notable free agent defensemen include Scott Hannan, Brett Clark, Matt Gilroy, Jaroslav Spacek, Pavel Kubina, Steve Eminger and Kurtis Foster. If the Sharks arent looking to sign a defenseman to a long-term deal with a salary cap rollback likely on the way, they may be able to get one of the veterans listed above to sign a one-year deal at a reasonable cost, much like White did this time last year.

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Sorensen returns to Sharks after having 'positive impact' last season

Editor's Note: The above video is from March 2, 2017

One of the Sharks’ young forwards expected to challenge for a full time roster spot this season has been re-signed.

Marcus Sorensen, who started the year in the AHL before working his way up to the Sharks, signed a two-year contract extension the team announced on Tuesday. A source told NBC Sports California that the deal is worth $700,000 at the NHL level for each of the next two seasons.

In 19 regular season games with the Sharks, Sorensen, 25, posted one goal and three assists. He appeared in all six playoff games against Edmonton, posting one goal and one assist.

In 43 games with the AHL Barracuda, Sorensen had 17 goals and 17 assists for 34 points.

"The time he spent with the Sharks this season, and the positive impact he had, proved that he can be an effective player at the highest level,” assistant general manager Joe Will said in a statement.

Sorensen originally signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. He was originally drafted by Ottawa in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, but spent six seasons playing in Sweden before joining San Jose.

Sorensen was a restriced free agent. The Sharks have just one RFA left to sign in forward Barclay Goodrow.

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Mailbag: Will Sharks miss Marleau's leadership? Thornton to be bumped?

Now that the dust has settled on the draft and free agency, here’s a meaty offseason Sharks mailbag before my vacation…

Who will replace Patty's leadership? (philip malan‏ @pmalan1979)

Patrick Marleau was a good example for other players in that he always came to camp in great shape and took care of himself between games, allowing him to be very productive into his later years. 

But let’s not overblow it. From what I understand, Marleau preferred to avoid confrontation, and was never the guy in the dressing room challenging other players to step up. That was left more to guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, with Logan Couture growing into that role in recent years, too. When it comes to veteran leadership there are other guys still in the dressing room of more value than Marleau. His leaving town shouldn’t change the dynamic.

Will Thornton be bumped from the top line center role? Who do you think will replace Marleau on the PP? (Elle‏ @LikeShiningOil)

The whole “top line” designation is something that us writers and broadcasters like to use, and I’m going to keep using it for Thornton so long as he and Pavelski are on the same line. That said, there will be plenty of games where the Couture line gets more even-strength ice time than the Thornton line. I guess my point here is don’t read too much into the labels. I don’t expect Thornton’s ice time to go down from what it was last season. He’s averaged 18 minutes and change in each of the past five seasons, and probably will again.

As for replacing Marleau on the power play, I would tab Tomas Hertl as the frontrunner, but I’m sure the Sharks will try a number of different looks there in training camp. After finishing 25th in the NHL last season they pretty much have to, right?

How will the lines roll this season, if you were to prognosticate now? (Erik Kuhre @Puckguy14)

It seems like we say this every year, but it depends on where the Sharks see Hertl slotting in. Last season Hertl started out on the wing of the top line after offseason knee surgery before moving to center fairly quickly. I know he battled through yet another knee injury during the season, but Hertl’s 22 points in 49 games was a disappointing total.

If the season were starting today, I’d put Hertl on the wing of the Thornton line again with, of course, Pavelski on the other side. Here’s what I’ve got in that scenario:

Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Joonas Donskoi
Jannik Hansen – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Melker Karlsson – Ryan Carpenter – Joel Ward

Extras: Marcus Sorensen, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow

(One guy who is really going to have to fight to keep his spot is Ward. I could see him getting pushed out, but for now I’m leaving him in).

Will there be a tough guy in the lineup to protect the kids? (Jim Kelley)

The Sharks signed free agent Brandon Bollig a couple weeks ago to replace Micheal Haley, but I don’t seem him as a regular in the NHL lineup. Bollig could be a guy they recall if they think it’s necessary to dress a pugilist, like when Pete DeBoer brought up Haley late in the 2015-16 season for the sole reason of fighting Darnell Nurse, who had jumped Sharks defenseman Roman Polak just two weeks earlier for no real reason.

Do you think Chris Tierney is capable of more point production at this point in his career? (Ian Stephenson)

Count me among those that thought Tierney was ready to have a better season last year after his strong performance in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Still, he’s just 23 years old, and his line in the series against Edmonton with Meier and Sorensen was a very effective one for long stretches of play. This is a huge year for Tierney, who had to settle for the Sharks’ one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer. Perform, and he’ll get paid. Struggle, and he could be on the move.

Do you think the Sharks will trade either Grosenick or Dell? Doesn't seem Grosenick has much more to prove in AHL. (Chris Greni)

No, they’ll hold on to all three for the time being. Getting Troy Grosenick re-signed to a one-year deal was a nice move on the Sharks’ part, considering Aaron Dell still has just 20 games of NHL experience. Perhaps if they both continue to play well the Sharks could dangle one as trade bait later in the year, but it wouldn’t make sense at this point. 

Any thoughts on DW using the offer sheet to bring in scoring help? There’s several serviceable RFAs out there still waiting for contracts. (Tony Martinico)

Keep in mind that some of those high end RFAs, like Colton Parayko, Nino Niederreiter and Tomas Tatar are currently headed for arbitration, which takes the offer sheet off the table.

Purely speculation here, but I have to wonder if the Sharks have at least kicked around trying to ink Leon Draisaitl to an offer sheet. You have to think Berlin native Hasso Plattner would love to add the “German Gretzky” to the roster. I know we're settling into the part of the NHL offseason where typically nothing happens, but it was July 19 when the Flyers signed Shea Weber to a monster offer sheet five years ago.

And, of course, Doug Wilson has used the power of the offer sheet in the past, signing Niklas Hjalmarsson in 2010 and then using the threat of an offer sheet with Boston to acquire Martin Jones.

Which Cuda player, aside from Meier, Labanc and Sorensen, would you expect to be a dark horse and could make the big team out of camp? (olin @sleepymofo)

Keep in mind that the sixth and defensemen spots are open, too. I would presume that Dylan DeMelo is the frontrunner to replace David Schlemko, but Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan are coming off of strong seasons in the AHL. Perhaps one of them overtakes DeMelo in training camp.

As for other forwards than those you mentioned, Goodrow could end challenging for a spot on the fourth line. I get plenty of questions about Danny O’Regan, too, and perhaps he makes a push. The issue with O’Regan is that although he’s a skilled player in the minors, he’s probably not quite skilled enough to make up for his small frame at the NHL level. I view him more as a fill-in guy.

Any word on [Barclay] Goodrow and [Marcus] Sorenson? I'm assuming they didn't sign their QO's? (DaveBPilot‏ @DaveBPilot)

Yes, that’s safe to assume, since the deadline was Saturday. They remain RFAs, and negotiations will surely continue.

Still, it’s worth mentioning what happened last year with Matt Nieto. The forward didn’t sign his qualifying offer, as he was pushing for a multi-year deal, and ended up signing for one year for less than he would have made had he accepted the original offer. He was waived and claimed by Colorado.