2017 Offseason Outlook: Calgary and San Jose

by Kevin Wickersham on May 29, 2017

This week Kevin makes stops in Calgary and San Jose to look at offseason needs.

Following the draft lottery, we’ve been examining each Western Conference squad’s offseason outlook, emphasizing points-only pool production with some peripheral considerations and highlighting potential breakout candidates. We started in the cellar points-wise and are moving up as we go. We’ll tackle Vegas shortly after the June expansion draft. Last week was Los Angeles and Winnipeg. This week we start with playoff teams. Nashville would have accompanied the Flames here in a Wild Card mashup, but since they’re busy preparing for Pittsburgh we’ll instead look at Calgary and San Jose.

Calgary Flames – 45-33-4 (94 points)

First round playoff series loss to Anaheim

Greatest needs: goaltending, offensive and defensive depth

After their strong second half of 2016-17, including a ten-game winning streak spanning part of February and March, hopes were high in Calgary for a successful playoff run. Instead they were swept in the first round by the Ducks and look to strengthen.

Their promising young forwards, including leading scorers Johnny Gaudreau (61 points in 72 games) and Sean Monahan (a team-high 27 goals contributing to 58 points) hope to build on success next year. Matthew Tkachuk, a vital cog in Calgary’s “3M” line along with resurgent Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, was a force of offense and grit that set the tone in the Saddledome. The first-year forward was a multi-category boon for poolies, tops among NHL rookies with 105 PIM, finishing third with a plus-14, sixth in scoring with 48 points, and dishing a fourth-best 35 assists.

Beyond that they’ll look to add forward scoring depth, particularly if Kris Versteeg’s 15 goals (eight on the power play tying for the team lead) and 22 assists in 69 games bolts via free agency. They also need  increased defensive presence. While it may not play out in fantasy stats, all bottom-six forwards save Alex Chiasson registered negative 5×5 shot differentials. Expect them to use some of their $21.8M in cap room on a depth forward or two with solid puck possession skills.

Restricted free agent Sam Bennett’s sophomore slump might add up to a bargain. After a ten-point production drop (to just 13 goals and 13 assists), with a re-sign and added year of experience both for himself and key Calgary forwards, the likely undervalued 20-year-old center may gain traction in 2017-18. You may also want to take a flier on Curtis Lazar whose potential began to show in the regular schedule’s final days with increased ice time and a goal and assist in his last two contests. Also an RFA that should re-sign, he could with further development bolster the bottom six and land some power play duty.

Defense isn’t a great area of concern. If you have Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, or T.J. Brodie you’re likely as happy as the Flames with their production. The 23-year-old Hamilton’s blend of multi-category and traditional scoring stats helped him achieve arguably top-three blueliner status in the West. With 13 goals and 37 assists, 14 power play points, a healthy plus-12 with 64 PIM, 68 hits, 94 blocks, and 222 SOG he’s a keeper. Landing seventh among West rearguards in penalty minutes was solid, and his shot totals ranked third behind only Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien. Not to mention his 5×5 shot differential was tops in the NHL among defenders playing more than 50 games.

His steady pairing partner Mark Giordano continued stellar work with a plus-22, 38 points (like Hamilton 14 of those were on the power play), 59 PIM, 151 shots on goal, and 5×5 shot differential numbers that placed him fourth among West rearguards skating in more than 50 contests.

T.J. Brodie’s 36 points, 12 on the man-advantage, was a slight drop after two straight 40-plus point campaigns, but with a more prolific partner expect those totals to rise. Frequently paired with declining Dennis Wideman and unrestricted free agent, multi-category contributor Deryk Engelland, and for a short time Michael Stone, expect GM Brad Treliving to case the free agent market for better transition game options.

Much like last year, goaltending is the big question.

While defensive effectiveness played a role, upcoming UFA Brian Elliott was very streaky. He started cold and the team was bailed out by also UFA Chad Johnson’s solid play, featured an amazingly hot run lasting almost until season-end, and struggled in the playoffs with a .880 save percentage and 3.89 goals against average. Still, his final stats (26-18-3, 2.55, .910) aren’t horrid. Should they re-sign him? It depends upon the remaining options, dwindling after the Ben Bishop and Scott Darling signings, but I can’t see them confidently bringing him back as top dog.

They have a good stable of prospects in Jon Gillies, Team USA stalwart and OHL All-Star Tyler Parsons, and even 24-year-old David Rittich who parlayed an effective AHL campaign into 20 minutes of late season NHL ice time, but none seem quite ready. If you can, pick up Gillies. Big at 6-6, 225-pounds, he looked solid in a campaign finale start at LA saving 28 of 29 for the win, and will surely get a long look in camp. Calgary local Johnson may be a wise insurance re-sign, but they doubtless want a more proven, reliable commodity in net.

We’ll see what the expansion draft fallout offers as related maneuvering is a possible source of quality goaltending, but by whichever opportunities arise Calgary should work hard to upgrade in net.

San Jose Sharks – 46-29-7 (99 points)

First round playoff series loss to Edmonton

Greatest needs: rest, injury recovery, future direction

The Sharks are at a common crossroads for long-successful clubs. Do they remain veteran-based intent upon a deep playoff run, or do they deal/let walk away some old growth and emphasize young, promising talent? Probably some combination of both. Their path will come clearer based on what they do with legendary Shark free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both 38 years old when 2017-18 rolls around.

With nearly $14.3M in cap room, no other pressing UFAs to re-sign (although Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic extensions loom year after next), and almost certainly shedding some salary via expansion draft, they can bring back both on short deals if they choose. Head Coach Pete DeBoer works best with veterans, so if he sticks around we may see generally greyer Sharks, if not, more green.

Questions abound for a team that started the campaign exceedingly strong then hit a post-finals year wall hard. Regardless of where the solid but likely statistically-declining Jumbo and Patty land, young forwards will play a larger role in 2017-18 in tandem with stalwarts Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson are among the seasoned in this group which largely underachieved last year, while Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sörensen, Daniel O'Regan and Ryan Carpenter are key parts of an emerging core. You should target some of the second batch.

In his fourth year with San Jose, 23-year-old Hertl looked to build upon a 46-point 2015-16 but totaled just 10 goals and 12 assists, limited to 49 contests with a sprained right knee (his third career major injury there) and broken foot. Donskoi, who recently re-signed a two-year, $3.8M deal, twice separated his shoulder and regressed in scoring (from 36 to 17) and defense (plus-4 to a minus-5). Free agent acquisition Mikkel Boedker was a serious disappointment whose diminished power play numbers factored greatly in a drop from 51 to 26 points. All three could come cheaply and provide good production with rebound years on a transitioning squad, but tread lightly.

Tierney centered a solid fourth line and landed 11 goals and 12 assists in 80 games, while Melker Karlsson contributed well in ways that don’t cleanly translate to fantasy, particularly with a game-one-winning playoff goal versus Edmonton, totaling 11 goals and 11 assists in 67 games with a plus-7. He just re-upped with a three-year, $6M deal.

Labanc headlined the next wave including some top-line play with Thornton and Pavelski, first power play unit work, a plus-9, and 20 points in 55 games. His 39 goals and 88 assists in 65 contests with OHL Barrie in 2015-16, along with 70 PIM show potential as a powerful fantasy option. He also added 19 points in 19 games with the AHL San Jose Barracuda.

Swiss-born 20-year-old Meier, the ninth pick in the 2015 entry draft, also spent some time on the top line, but the 6-1, 212-pound skilled right wing bounced back and forth between the Sharks and Barracuda for further seasoning after an early-year battle with mono. With three goals and three assists in 34 games he’s not quite there yet, but like Labanc had impressive 2015-16 juniors totals including 87 points in 52 QMJHL contests.

AHL rookie of the year O’Regan is another smart investment. His 23 goals, 11 on the power play, and 35 assists in 63 Barracuda contests, and first NHL goal against Calgary in the Sharks’ season finale add up to a likely 2017-18 roster spot. His skilled skating and hockey instincts should help him gain and keep an NHL role.

The quick and small (5-11, 168-pound) yet physical Swede Sörensen is a little older at 25 but blended well on a fourth-line role with Tierney and Meier. His scoring didn’t follow with just four points in 19 games, but he may see increased opportunities next year. As an arbitration-eligible RFA we’ll see what his future holds. Carpenter is another older prospect at 26 that showed something in 11 Sharks games with a plus-five, two goals and two assists. He’s probably not worth re-drafting, but keep an eye on the UFA in deep leagues for a possible bottom-six NHL role.

San Jose has the best defenseman in fantasy and real life. Brent Burns.

While he slowed in the final quarter of 2016-17 (0.52 points-per-game versus 0.93 for the year), Burns still led the West in blue line power play points and overall scoring (his 29 goals and 47 assists besting second place Duncan Keith by 23 points), and everyone in the league with 320 shots. Regarding peripheral stats, his plus-19 placed him sixth and 142 blocks 16th among West defensemen. Add to that a reasonable amount of hits (69) for such a prolific scorer and we have our Norris Trophy favorite.

In a season including a puck-induced face injury that surely played a factor, Marc-Edouard Vlasic slipped 11 points from his previous 39-point, 67-game campaign, registering six goals and 22 assists. He finished a distant second in Sharks defenseman scoring and his plus-4 was his lowest since 2007-08, but contributed 146 blocks, his best total in three seasons. At 30 he still has tread on the tires, a history of success, and a longer offseason to heal and rest up so get him at a bargain price if you can.

Brendan Dillon finished with 174 hits, seventh-best among West defensemen, and Justin Braun with 136 hits and 161 blocks (sixth among West defenders) providing solid peripherals from the San Jose blue line.

Martin Jones again was a workhorse in net. Amongst goalies playing at least 41 contests he finished seventh in wins (35) and ninth in goals against average (2.40), but just 21st in save percentage (.912). Playing in 89 games total including the playoffs, Jones registered some predictably declining stats in the second half of the year. His postseason work was again very good, however, featuring a 1.75 GAA and .935 save percentage.

Used in only 20 games in his first NHL tour of duty, 28-year-old backup Aaron Dell excelled with a save percentage of .931 and goals against average of 2.00. He’ll be available in the expansion draft and, with all the foreseeable goalie shuffling could end up a Golden Knight or with a greater role in San Jose or elsewhere next year. If you can get him cheaply do it.

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