Logan Couture’s off-season ‘really sucked,’ until…

Matt Larkin
Logan Couture. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2015 off-season hit Logan Couture like a punch in the face, because it began in April. It’s a horrible feeling to realize your season is over the day the regular season ends, and Couture, 26, never experienced it in his first five NHL seasons. His San Jose Sharks missed the post-season for the first time in his career this past spring, and he makes no effort to sugarcoat how much he hates that.

“It sucks. It really sucks.”

Couture resents the fact he hasn’t played competitive hockey since April 11 – a date he quotes, like he circled it on his calendar. He and the teammate he calls ‘Jumbo,’ fellow center Joe Thornton, felt a wave of frustration hit them earlier this summer when they realized they were used to playing hockey in May.

“We were golfing, and we both talked about how much this sucks, how we don’t want this to happen again,” Couture said. “It makes you hungrier and hungrier, and we’re ready to get an extra serving right now.”

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Daniil Tarasov leaves Sharks, signs two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow

Jared Clinton
Daniil Tarasov (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

For the past three seasons, Daniil Tarasov has been trying to crack the San Jose Sharks roster. And after a 2014-15 campaign in which he got his first taste of NHL action, the Russian winger has decided to leave the league to sign a two-year deal with the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow.

Tarasov, 24, was signed by the Sharks in 2013 as an undrafted free agent after spending three seasons in the USHL. Before making it to the Sharks, though, Tarasov split a season between the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls and AHL’s Worcester Sharks. With the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, Tarasov notched 14 goals and 28 points in 43 games, landing himself a two-year, entry-level deal with San Jose.

After signing the deal, Tarasov failed to get his shot with the NHL club, instead spending the entirety of the 2013-14 season in the AHL. With Worcester, Tarasov continued his consistent play, scoring 17 goals and 31 points in 47 contests. Ultimately, however, the goal was to make it to the NHL. Read more

10 players facing make or break seasons in 2015-16

Justin Schultz  (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers avoided arbitration with Justin Schultz Wednesday by inking the 25-year-old blueliner to a one-year, $3.9 million deal. But the arbitration wasn’t Schultz’s choice. Rather, it was the Oilers who wanted to plead their case for a lower cost on Schultz’s contract.

However, by opting for team-elected arbitration – which, as mentioned, has now been avoided with the one-year contract – Edmonton was essentially giving Schultz an ultimatum: if he wants to keep his spot in the Oilers lineup for what he believes to be fair value, he’s going to have to prove that he’s worth it. Thus, the one-year deal.

Schultz isn’t the only restricted free agent signed to a one-year contract and he’s not the only player who can, as Mike Babcock put it with regards to Nazem Kadri, “put the screws,” to his club. On the flip side, though, one bad year could see some franchises giving up on their young guns.

Here are 10 players who could have make-or-break seasons in 2014-15: Read more

Which teams have had the best and worst off-seasons according to the numbers?

Jack Eichel (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

It’s been nearly two weeks since free agency opened and most of the big fish have landed, which means it’s time to evaluate the winners and losers of free agency. There’s still some great players out there that can help teams, but the bulk of signings have already been made so right now is a perfect time to see how each team has done so far.

Usually, grading a team’s offseason in July is a fool’s errand because a lot of things will change during the season, but with recent advances in hockey analytics, it’s possible to get a reasonable estimation. Just like our post before free agency began, we used wins above replacement from war-on-ice.com over the last three seasons to project what a player will do next season. Using our off-season movement tracker, we looked at who’s in and who’s out for each team and added up their WAR totals to get wins added (or lost) from this offseason.

Of course, wins aren’t everything in the offseason, especially in a salary cap league. The value of the wins added is important too. With that in mind, here’s all 30 teams’ wins added compared to how much salary they added. Above the red line means a team got less for their money, while below means teams got more. (Keep in mind that WAR is generally skewed towards forwards and goalies so a team that added a big-time D-man, like Calgary, won’t look as great as they should here). Read more

San Jose Sharks sign Joel Ward, are now very clearly not rebuilding

Matt Larkin
Joel Ward. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

It sure seemed like the San Jose Sharks were poised to start a rebuild just a couple weeks ago. They’d missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. They’d fired coach Todd McLellan. Goalie Antti Niemi was set to walk as an unrestricted free agent. Former captain Joe Thornton was publicly at odds with GM Doug Wilson. The Sharks even had their first top-10 draft selection since 2007, nabbing Timo Meier ninth overall. It all screamed turning over a new leaf.

But everything Wilson has done since last week’s draft suggests otherwise. Acquiring Martin Jones and signing him to a three-year extension worked whether San Jose was rebuilding or retooling, as Jones is only 25 and someone had to start in net for them in 2015-16. That said, getting him from Boston cost the Sharks a 2016 first-round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly.

Then came July 1 and defenseman Paul Martin signing at $19.4 million over four years. Friday, the next hammer dropped: right winger Joel Ward at $9.825 million over three years. Martin earns $4.85 million per season, and Ward’s cap hit is $3.275 million.

The message is clear: the Sharks refuse to roll over. Martin and Ward are both 34 and received multi-year commitments. It’s “win now,” or Wilson at least believes this team can win now.

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San Jose Sharks sign Paul Martin for four years, $19.4 million

Matt Larkin
Paul Martin. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Don’t be so sure the San Jose Sharks are set on a rebuild. Earlier this week they acquired goaltender Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins and signed him to an extension to be their starter. Wednesday, they kicked off free agency by signing veteran defenseman Paul Martin to a four-year, $19.4-million contract paying him $4.85 million annually.

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Martin Jones signs for three years, $9 million with San Jose Sharks

Jared Clinton
Martin Jones' numbers are unbelievable, but is he simply the product of his environment? (Getty Images)

Before the San Jose Sharks acquired netminder Martin Jones from the Boston Bruins, the club’s future between the pipes looked uncertain. Hours after trading for Jones, however, the Sharks shored up their goaltending situation for at least the next few seasons.

Tuesday evening the Sharks announced they have locked up the 25-year-old Jones to a three-year deal worth $9 million. The cap hit, a mere $3 million per season, all but solidifies the fact that the Sharks will look to Jones as their starter as early as next season. Jones’ price tag puts him at almost double the cap hit of the Sharks’ backup netminder, Alex Stalock, who was the frontrunner for the starting job had San Jose not gone out and acquired Jones.

“Martin was at the top of our list of players that we had targeted,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a release by the club. “We’re extremely excited to have him on board.” Read more

CHL Import Draft: who is coming over?

Oliver Kylington (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.

With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.

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