Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Paul Martin, D
Salary cap hit: $4.85 million, signed through 2018-19
2015-16 year in review: Before he even slipped a Sharks sweater over his head, Paul Martin surely knew that he was set to be paired with Brent Burns on the first day of training camp. Shortly after signing a four-year contract with San Jose last summer, coach Pete DeBoer and GM Doug Wilson both publicly proposed that Martin was the ideal partner for the Wookiee.
They were right. Martin’s calm, steady play on the blue line aided in Burns having a career year, while Martin himself posted three goals and 17 assists in 78 games, averaging 20:43 of ice time. The Sharks were fortunate that Martin stayed healthy, too, after the blueliner had missed some significant time due to injury in recent seasons.
Another benefit to having Martin around was he added some needed veteran leadership to a group that had been missing it the season prior, and DeBoer even called Martin a “great extension of our [coaching] staff]” in late April. He might not wear a letter, but Martin - who has never missed the playoffs in his 12 year career - is among the Sharks' more important veteran leaders.
2016-17 outlook: There’s certainly no reason for the Sharks to break up the Martin-Burns pair, as the two proved to complement each other extremely well. That’s not even a decision that has to be made; they’ll undoubtedly be together in exactly one month for the season opener on Oct. 12 against Los Angeles.
The club is also better set up to deal with a potential Martin injury, too, as he’s not getting any younger. New addition David Schlemko could slot into the top four if needed, while Dylan DeMelo could be called upon if needed, too. When Martin missed three games in October, the Sharks were outscored 14-4 in three consecutive losses, reflecting just how important he is to the group – and to Burns.
The way the Sharks’ roster is set up, Martin is likely to be one of the players exposed in next summer’s expansion draft. He probably wouldn’t be taken considering his age, but if Martin has another solid season, perhaps Las Vegas will be looking to add at least one veteran blueliner. That’s not something to worry about at present, though. The Sharks are fortunate to have Martin on their blue line, as he’s a key cog on and off the ice in what is arguably the best defense group in the NHL.