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James Sheppard signing highlights more news for San Jose Sharks

James Sheppard may have been overpaid but should make an impact with the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks.
James Sheppard may have been overpaid but should make an impact with the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

San Jose Sharks news

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The second week of NHL free agency began Tuesday, July 8. Even though the San Jose Sharks have yet to sign any significant outside free agents, they continue to make news.

The photo list provides a summary of San Jose's big news events on Monday and Tuesday, outside of signing Tommy Wingels examined in the prior column here. More details on each are worth further examination.

Most notably, the San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday that restricted free agent James Sheppard was re-signed by the Sharks to a one-year, $1.3 million deal. Afterward, the now 26-year old forward will be an unrestricted free agent.

Sheppard struggled to stay in the lineup until he found a place centering the third line after the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He struggled in the circle and was not always in position defensively, but he was tied for San Jose's second-most prolific scorer in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.

He skates well, is not afraid to use the body and can provide the Sharks some secondary scoring. It is likely general manager Doug Wilson would have liked to have gotten a multi-year deal done, but Sheppard is showing flashes of being the player that was drafted ninth overall in 2006 and wants to get a taste of unrestricted free agency in a year.

This appears to be a negative result of a rebuild. Wilson has thoroughly committed to younger players and is already thinning at forward, so he has slightly overpaid for a player fitting those needs. Teams paying him less than $1.2 million would have had to send San Jose a third-round pick—the same amount given up to Minnesota to get him in 2011.

Most teams would not have thought him worth giving up a third-round pick. If they do think that, Wilson gets his an early second-day pick in his coveted 2015 NHL draft. The problem is not so much paying an extra eighth of a million dollars that they can very much afford, but missing the chance for the supposedly rebuilding Sharks to get compensation for an expendable player.

That being said, he is no reserve like Mike Brown or John Scott. Sheppard will be in the lineup every game he is healthy during the 2014-15 NHL season, and his signing makes San Jose better.

Then again, he is no Tommy Wingels signing. In addition to the Examiner piece about his importance, CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz went in to detail about that other newly-signed 26-year old forward being part of the new leadership for the Sharks. Wilson's comment corroborates that take: "Tommy epitomizes exactly what we're looking for in a player."

Wingels told Kurz it was not a role he would shy away from. However, he will have to work on offensive consistency. He had three assists in seven 2014 Pacific Division semifinals games and has yet to score his first Stanley Cup playoff goal through 23 games.

Wingels is rather new to scoring, and it is more likely he will develop consistency than be a flash in the pan. In previous seasons, he was creating opportunities on San Jose's checking lines.

However, he had at least one of the big four forwards (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture) on his line almost every shift late in the season. Following a three-goal, two-assist outburst over three games in early March, he had just one goal and one assist in the remaining 16 games.

When asked what he needs to work on, he said strength was a priority. The comment seemed to suggest he was playing hurt if not injured by the end of the 2013-14 NHL season:

I think that's something I have to be—strong so my body can maintain that physical style throughout a whole season.

Meanwhile, reserve forward John McCarthy was officially signed away from the Sharks by a two-way contract with the St. Louis Blues. It pays hefty if he is in the minor leagues—$200,000 is between $50,000 to $80,000 more than the normal for a contract that pays $600,000 in the NHL.

The reality is McCarthy just could not make an impact. He graded as the worst Shark in the 2013-14 NHL season according to Examiner.com's per-game quotient (.324) that measures statistical impact on both ends: 36 games, one goal, one assist, 25 hits, 17 blocked shots, nine giveaways, nine takeaways and 71 of 133 (.534) in the circle.

He broke into the NHL in 2009-10, playing four games for San Jose at age 24. He returned to play 37 the next season, scoring his first two goals and assists.

However, he was unable to latch on for more than 10 games with the team during the following season despite it being the worst in Wilson's tenure. Then he became the captain of the Worcester Sharks, but could not crack the NHL roster until the 2013-14 NHL season.

Typically one of San Jose's healthy scratches, he was eventually exposed to and cleared waivers so he could be reassigned to the AHL. About to turn 28 years old, McCarthy should be coming into his peak.

Much like Brown but without the edge, he seems to be a forward with maximum potential of playing the fourth line and already hitting his ceiling. A player that is a leader in the AHL and has the capability of playing a regular NHL role is a good insurance policy to have, but there is a chance McCarthy would not have gotten that opportunity with the Sharks.

Even if he did, the improvement of his play over a younger forward the team can develop into something more would be negligible. That means the team is no worse in the short term for the loss of McCarthy, and the franchise is probably better off in the long run.

The latter was also true of Dan Boyle—who San Jose will miss in the short term, and who Kurz wrote Monday had the New York Rangers at the top of his list for new homes:

I just wanted to experience something different—an Original Six team. New York is where I just wanted to go.

He also mentioned their consistent contention, playing in Madison Square Garden and a chance to reunite with former Stanley Cup-winning teammate Martin St. Louis—joking that the 39-year old's presence means Boyle is no longer the oldest player on his team. He said very little about his departure from the Sharks, preferring to keep discussions confidential.

Before Tuesday ended, Kurz also reported that Tomas Hertl has tweaked his knee in the prospect camp and will be unavailable for the scrimmage Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. PDT. While this is disappointing, it will do little to slow the development of an already impressive player.

Examiner will cover the game because there are still four players capable of playing a significant role in the 2014-15 NHL season: Matt Nieto, Freddie Hamilton, Eriah Hayes and Mirco Mueller.