Runner-up Sharks head into offseason with few glaring needs
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) When general manager Doug Wilson entered last offseason he had a long list of needs after the San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
The additions of players like goalie Martin Jones, forwards Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi and defenseman Paul Martin to a core that was already in place keyed a turnaround that led San Jose to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in its 25-year history.
Despite losing that final series in six games to Pittsburgh, Wilson believes he doesn't need to make any wholesale changes this summer.
''The majority of our team I think is in place,'' Wilson said Monday. ''Unless health dictates otherwise, that's probably going to be the foundation of our team. But we always look at ways to improve our hockey team.''
That foundation led to quite a bit of success this past season. Captain Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton keyed a top line that dominated opponents most of the season, Logan Couture emerged as a star in the playoffs when he led the NHL with 30 points, Brent Burns added improved defense to his playmaking offense and became a Norris Trophy finalist as top defenseman in the league, and Marc Edouard-Vlasic proved he is one of the game's top shutdown defensemen.
That wasn't enough against a Penguins team that was deeper, and perhaps more importantly faster, than the Sharks. San Jose struggled to keep up with Pittsburgh in the final, especially after top-line forward Tomas Hertl injured his knee in Game 2.
But Wilson doesn't see lack of speed as a major need this offseason, especially after he has spent the past few years replenishing a farm system that had been lacking.
''We think we have a lot of ingredients in house who are going to compete for this team,'' he said. ''We think we can play a fast game too and we did it many times during the season when we were healthy and on top of our game.''
The Sharks also are hoping to get a boost from a group of young players that includes forwards Timo Meier, Nikolay Goldobin and Marcus Sorensen, and defenseman Mirco Mueller.
Strong performances this season by rookies Donskoi and Dylan DeMelo and second-year forward Melker Karlsson played a big part in San Jose's rebound from missing the playoffs to winning the Western Conference.
''We do encourage our young guys to knock a door down, come in and play and make this hockey team,'' Wilson said.
In other news, Wilson said he has had preliminary talks with some of the team's pending restricted free agents like forwards Hertl and Matt Nieto. The decision on whether to try to retain unrestricted free agents like forwards Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus, defenseman Roman Polak and goalie James Reimer will come after the NHL announces what the salary cap will be next season later this week.
Wilson said he also plans to talk to Burns about a contract extension before he enters the final season of his current five-year deal.
''There's no doubt he's important to us,'' Wilson said. ''We want him. I think he loves being here. Those conversations will take place shortly.''
Wilson also said he expects Patrick Marleau back for a 19th season in San Jose. Marleau is entering the final year of his no-trade contract and reportedly gave the Sharks permission to seek a deal to three teams last season. Marleau said at the end of the season that he wanted to remain with the Sharks.
NOTES: The Sharks made their first move of the offseason by acquiring C Maxim Letunov and a sixth-round draft pick from Arizona for a fourth-round pick this year and third-rounder next year. Letunov, a second-round pick by St. Louis in 2014, had 16 goals and 24 assists last season as a freshman at UConn. ... Wilson said he doesn't know yet if any players will need offseason surgery, including Hertl, who missed the final four games of the Cup final with an injured right knee. ... San Jose will open next season at home against Los Angeles on Oct. 12. The remainder of the schedule will be announced Wednesday.