NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the San Jose Sharks.
The San Jose Sharks didn't make a splash this offseason after losing their captain, but they are confident they'll be able to compete for the Stanley Cup after falling two games short of the Final last season.
Joe Pavelski, who played his first 13 seasons for the Sharks, including the past four as captain, signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars as a free agent on July 1. Forwards Joonas Donskoi (Colorado Avalanche) and Gustav Nyquist (Columbus Blue Jackets) also departed as a free agent, and forward Joe Thornton, who turned 40 on July 2, is an unrestricted free agent who hasn't decided if he wants to return for his 22nd NHL season.
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"The guys moving on played significant roles up front so those jobs, those minutes, that ice time is now open," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think in talking to [general manager Doug Wilson], we're committed to giving the young guys in the organization good opportunities to earn those jobs. We have some really good depth, especially up front, and it's going to be an exciting camp."
A few players who could fill those spots are centers Dylan Gambrell, who played eight NHL games last season; Antti Suomela, who had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 27 games; and Alexander True.
"That's going to be the million dollar question with us," DeBoer said. "'What young guys can jump in and fill those roles?' 'What returning guys can find another level in order to replace some of the guys that left?' And also the leadership in our dressing room from Joe Pavelski not being there, we're going to need guys to help fill that void."
Logan Couture agreed with giving those in the system the first chance.
"I think it speaks about the belief in the prospects in our system, and I'm excited," said the veteran forward, who had 70 points (27 goals, 43 assists) in 81 games last season. "There's a lot of guys that we're going to be counting on moving forward that are prospects and young players, so I'm excited to get to camp and see how they look."
Video: Logan Couture comes in at No. 17 on the list
San Jose lost two of its six regular defensemen when Joakim Ryan signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings on July 1 and Justin Braun was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 18. However, depth at the position isn't something the Sharks are concerned about.
"You'll never hear me complain about an adjustment with our defense corps," DeBoer said. "I'm not going to get a lot of sympathy around the League when you've got [Erik] Karlsson, [Brent] Burns and [Marc-Edouard] Vlasic back there."
Couture said, "We've got the pieces back there to play solid defensively, but it's not only on our defensemen, it's on our forwards as well and goaltending. We play well as a five-man unit."
The Sharks did re-sign several key players, including Karlsson to an eight-year contract on June 17, and restricted free agent forwards Timo Meier (four-year contract) on July 1 and Kevin Labanc (one-year contract) on July 8.
"Focus No. 1 is on our team and what we can do," Couture said. "I think we have enough pieces in San Jose to push for a playoff spot, and really that's all you want is to get into the playoffs and go from there. Unless you win, and that's something we haven't done in San Jose, we've never felt what it feels like to win it all, so each year around the start of August, you start to really want to get to camp and get started again, and that's just part of being competitive."
Video: STL@SJS, Gm1: Meier dekes to backhand for great goal
San Jose will try to qualify for the playoffs for a fifth straight season and the 15th time in the past 16 seasons.
"I don't think there's any doubt we feel we're a contender and one of those teams that should be playing for a Stanley Cup next April when the playoffs start," DeBoer said. "The teams that didn't win all try and improve over the summer, and I think everyone would like enough money to go shopping every July 1 and add guys but ... we're not one of those teams, and I think that's a good thing because that tells you that we've got good players that we're paying well and we are comfortable with, and we're confident they can be a core that can lead us."
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