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.
Sharks star center Logan Couture wants to stay in San Jose. The Sharks most certainly want to keep him here.
Which brings us to the top item on the Sharks’ offseason checklist – sign Couture to a long-term contract extension.
The 24-year-old All-Star has one year remaining on his current deal at a salary of $3 million. It’s the final year of a two-year, $5.75 million extension Couture signed in August, 2011. Since that time, Couture has blossomed into one of the rising young stars in the NHL, making his first appearance in the NHL All-Star Game in 2012 while scoring 30 goals for the first time that season, and improving even more in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign, with 37 points (21g, 16a) in 48 games.
The Sharks have typically shied away from long-term contracts, so it’s doubtful that Couture will get the full, eight-year maximum allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement. But, there are a couple NHL players that are comparable to Couture when it comes to on-ice production, and therefore what he might expect in terms of contract length and dollars and cents.
Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and Boston’s Tyler Seguin are both about to begin six-year extensions in 2013-14 with their respective clubs. Skinner’s deal is worth $34.35 million, while Seguin’s is slightly more at $34.5 million. From a pure production standpoint, Skinner has averaged .70 points per game over his three-year career, while Seguin has produced .60 points per game. Couture, with 167 points in 232 career regular season games, checks in at .72 points per game.
What might make Couture more valuable than those two aforementioned players, though, is that he’s three years older than 21-year-olds Skinner and Seguin, and in more of a position to become one of his team’s leaders and perhaps its future captain. It’s been well documented here that Couture was the player “driving the bus” for the team down the stretch, to borrow a term used by Todd McLellan, and during the Sharks’ playoff run, defenseman Brad Stuart said Couture was “probably the leader of this team.” Stuart has played with guys like Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios and Jarome Iginla, so he should know a thing or two about leadership.
Giving Couture the sizeable contract he’s earned should be manageable for the Sharks, too, as they’ll have a number of large contracts coming off of the books after the 2013-14 season.
“We have a lot of flexibility going forward. We have lots of flexibility in two years, which ties into some of the players that you’re asking about us signing this summer,” said Doug Wilson, when asked about potentially signing Couture and Joe Pavelski to extensions this summer. “We’ve been fortunate to have players that understand what we’re trying to accomplish. We’re not a team that’s going to miss the playoffs for five or seven years and go into a rebuild. We don’t believe in that. We want to reset on the fly, and it only works when you have players that understand what it is we’re trying to accomplish, and participate in it.”
Although he would only be a restricted free agent next summer, it makes sense to get something done with Couture as soon as possible to avoid any potential unpleasantness later. The mutual attraction for one another is there. It's just a matter of hammering out the numbers, and closing the deal for the player that is the cornerstone of the future of the Sharks franchise.