The San Jose Sharks have not been very active in the days following their epic collapse in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, but have managed to stay in the news. Even their first busy day of NHL free agency did not bring about the winds of change, but there were a few breezes Thursday, July 10.
The pictured list provides a chronological summary of the day's news involving four players that frankly will struggle to play for San Jose during the 2014-15 NHL season. That list and the examination of each begins with another piece of news that seems contradictory to general manager Doug Wilson's claims of rebuilding this team.
In a discussion with David Pollack of the San Jose Mercury News, Wilson clarified (backtracked?) that when he previously spoke of needing to rebuild the Sharks, he referred to the culture rather than players. He still expects them to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, and since last winning the Pacific Division in 2011 they have been nothing more than a standard playoff team: 11-12 with only one series win as fourth, sixth and seventh seed.
So what of turning the team over to younger players? After re-signing Scott Hannan to another one-year, $1 million contract (all figures courtesy of Cap Geek), Wilson made sense of that to Pollack by talking about the veteran's mentoring skills toward those younger players.
If Wilson himself, Larry Robinson and Jim Johnson (all exceptional defensemen in their day) cannot complete a prospect's mentoring because they are not on the ice with him, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun can. San Jose better not be paying Hannan that much to coach, but to play.
Playing 35-year old Hannan whose play is diminishing to the point where he is already barely better than a younger player capable of improving does not equate to handing the team over to youth. With the earlier signing of Taylor Fedun, Thursday's signing of Matt Tennyson and the expected retention of Jason Demers, the Sharks have a crowded blue line.
The good news is that if they can sift through that field enough to find a younger regular to take the bottom rung on the blue line, they can waive Hannan and someone will likely pick him up because he is still good enough to be at the bottom of most NHL depth charts. At worst, he is an expensive insurance policy that will not need much playing time to be ready to fill in.
Still, Hannan does not make San Jose much better right now than Tennyson would. That makes the 24-year old a much better signing at $625,000 per season (two-way contract this season paying just $75,000 if he is in the minors, but a one-way for the full amount next).
Tennyson has played just four NHL games, but has two assists and a solid enough AHL resume to be thought ready for a role as the sixth defenseman now. That makes the contract very good, but it is set up for him to be in the AHL this season. Instead of a younger player getting better as the season wears down, a veteran wears down as the season does.
The Sharks also signed a two-way contract with Michael Haley, a 28-year old forward that spent last season in the minor league system of the New York Rangers. He has 52 games of NHL experience (two goals, one assist), but most of it (and all his points) came three seasons ago and he is supposed to be just coming into his peak.
As he has been at best a point-per-three-games forward at the AHL level, it is hard to see him breaking in with San Jose. If he somehow does, he will be just a passable reserve being paid $600,000. More likely, he will struggle to even stay on a scoring line for the Worcester Sharks at $150,000.
Bryan Lerg is another 28-year old forward with little chance of making an impact at the NHL level that Wilson signed to a two-way contract. He has a scorer's touch in the AHL, but has yet to get his first call to action at the highest level. He will have to show that touch in camp to even get a chance to stick with the team and make $575,000, but will more likely see scoring-line time in Worcester for $125,000.
Still, the days continue to provide more bad than good for the Sharks. Thursday was no different, overpaying for an aging veteran insurance policy and mentor to be in the way of prospect development and signing two players that may simply crowd the minor-league talent pool more. Most followers are resigned to Wilson not making any impact signings, but they might trust the team's new direction if the minor ones made more sense.