Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every day leading up to the start of NHL training camp.
Name/Position: Jason Demers, defenseman
Salary: $3.15 million
Contract status: Signed through 2015-16 ($3.4 million cap hit)
2013-14 year in review: Jason Demers knew that last season was an important one after two disappointing and injury-plagued campaigns. The defenseman seemed to rededicate himself to improving his performance, and he ended up playing what was probably the best hockey of his career in the second half of the season. Demers’ 34 points (5g, 29a) placed him second on the team in scoring among defenseman, and he basically supplanted Dan Boyle on the top pair during even-strength situations. Demers' game fell off in the postseason -- perhaps hindered by a fractured foot that was only revealed later -- but the Sharks rewarded him for his bounce-back year with a healthy new two-year contract on July 16.
2014-15 outlook: I wrote back in July that a two-year deal for Demers was fair for both sides in that the defenseman earned a sizable raise with his play, but it also protects the Sharks from the player regressing like he did after his promising 2010-11 campaign. The potential is there for the likable Demers to keep improving, and what happens from here is up to him.
So, where will he play? The Sharks now have three excellent right-handed shooting defensemen in Demers, Brent Burns and Justin Braun, so it’s difficult to predict what the pairs will look like. Ultimately, the Sharks would probably prefer to have a right-hander paired with a leftie, but none of Demers, Braun or Burns figures to play on the bottom pair. Perhaps Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Burns start as the top pair, while Braun and Demers, who have played together before, are the second pair. Or, maybe one of them becomes trade bait, depending on if one of the younger prospects like Mirco Mueller, Taylor Doherty or Matt Tennyson can emerge.
The Sharks will be looking for a defenseman to replace Dan Boyle on the top power play unit, and the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Demers may be the best candidate after getting some brief looks in that spot last season. He averaged nearly two minutes a game with a man advantage, but that could jump this year (Boyle, in comparison, averaged 3:38 per game on the power play). If Demers locks down that role, his offensive numbers could skyrocket.