24 May 19
Santa Cruz Sentinel
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SAN JOSE — General manager Doug Wilson was still trying to put things in perspective Thursday after the Sharks came up six wins short of capturing the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
That necessary time to reflect after the Sharks lost the Western Conference Final in six games, though, can only last so long.
His captain, Joe Pavelski, wants to stay with the team but doesn’t have a contract. His star acquisition, Erik Karlsson, said he likes the organization but doesn’t know where he’ll land. And his Hall of Fame-bound center, Joe Thornton, isn’t sure whether he wants to put his soon-to-be 40-year-old body through the rigors of another season.
The next six weeks — including the start of free agency on July 1 — could wind up as one of the more transformative periods of Wilson’s tenure as the Sharks’ GM, as he figures out how to proceed with his seven pending unrestricted free agents — including Pavelski, Karlsson and Thornton — under the restraints of the NHL’s salary cap. The Sharks’ other pending UFAs are Gus Nyquist, Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed and Micheal Haley.
“Every year you’re going to have a different team. Again, that’s a cap system,” Wilson said. “You need people coming in and taking more ice time, you need young players who learn from the people they’re around. Change is part of that. I haven’t gotten into that mode yet.
“It’s still tough to realize we’re not playing today. Having said that, I look at the calendar, I know I have to get to work and get some decisions done.”
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Wilson said he’ll sit down with coach Pete DeBoer on Friday to begin the autopsy of a season that began with every expectation of competing for the Stanley Cup. Wilson said DeBoer will be back for a fifth season as head coach, but that other changes in regards to assistant coaches won’t be determined until later.
“I’ve got to look in the mirror before I look at anyone else,” Wilson said. “That’s the process we’ve always followed. Are there things we can do different? Pete will do the same thing, and we’ll sit and talk about it.”
Some takeaways from Thursday:
WILL KARLSSON STAY?: The first decision, personnel-wise, may be about Karlsson, who despite an injury-filled season in San Jose, figures to command big money as arguably the top player in this summer’s list of free agents.
The NHL defenseman with the biggest cap hit next season will be the Los Angeles’ Kings Drew Doughty, who begins his eight-year, $88 million extension in the fall. Will Karlsson get that kind of money from the Sharks or another team? It’s possible.
“That’s a part of this business that you never know about,” Karlsson said Thursday. “Things have changed. I kind of wish I was signing my second deal and I was 21 and promising and hadn’t accomplished anything. The people that everyone seems to want.
“Things change and you have to change with it or you’re out. I think I’m in the best position I’ve been in since I entered this league.”
The Sharks could afford to sign Karlsson, who turns 29 on May 31, to a Doughty kind of deal, although it may mean they have to slice some payroll elsewhere — either by trade or by letting some unrestricted free agents walk.
San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski speaks with the news media from the team’s practice facility at Solar4America Ice in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 23, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
Right now they have just over $58 million tied up in 15 contracts, according to CapFriendly, and the salary cap for next season is projected to be about $83 million. Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are each due a raise as pending restricted free agents. The Sharks’ other RFA’s include center Dylan Gambrell and defenseman Joakim Ryan.
DOES PAVELSKI FIT? The size of Karlsson’s contract, if he signs with the Sharks, could determine whether the Sharks can afford to bring back Pavelski. His expiring contract had an average annual value of $6 million. Should a player coming off a 38-goal season have to take a paycut? Even if they are about to turn 35?
Pavelski sounded confident Thursday that something can get worked out with the Sharks. He wants to stay. He and his family love the area. But it’s quite possible he’ll be able find more lucrative offers elsewhere, both in term and money.
Pavelski needed to have hand surgery two weeks ago, but feels he’ll be fully healthy again soon.
“I’ve got a pretty strong belief system that I’ll be back here,” Pavelski said. “It’s just things have to work themselves out along the way. We had a lot of things going on with many different players. It’s nothing I’m too worried about. My mindset really doesn’t change. I know where I’m at as a player.”
THORNTON’S FUTURE: One Sharks player after another Thursday said how weird it would be to come to training camp this fall and not see Thornton, a pillar of the franchise and the face of the organization. But Thornton’s going to take some time to decide what his next step will be in a career that will end one day with his plaque in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section”]FUTURE OF NYQUIST: Nyquist, the Sharks’ trade deadline acquisition, said he wasn’t thinking about his next contract just yet.
“I love it here. I had a great time here. I had a great experience, a great three months,” he said. “It’s nothing I’ve thought about. it’s still a month away. I know I don’t have a contract for next year yet, but we’ll see what happens. We’ll take that process further down the road. I don’t want to think about that right now.”
HERTL’S HEALTH: Tomas Hertl missed Game 6 of the series with the St. Louis Blues with a head injury he suffered from a hit to the head by Ivan Barbashev. He also had surgery Wednesday for a broken left pinkie finger he incurred in a practice just before the playoffs began.