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: Brenden Dillon, D
Salary cap hit: $3.27 million, signed through 2019-20
2015-16 year in review: Brenden Dillon suited up for 76 games on the Sharks’ blue line, finishing with 11 points (2g, 9a) and 61 penalty minutes. He missed six games due to an upper body injury in February.
Dillon had a number of partners throughout the year. He started with Matt Tennyson before Dylan DeMelo jumped in, and eventually it was Roman Polak forming the third pair with Dillon down the stretch and throughout the playoffs.
Dillon and Polak were a physical and generally responsible duo, and coach Pete DeBoer trusted them to play significant minutes throughout the team’s deep playoff run. While that likely kept the top four fresh throughout the first three rounds, Dillon and Polak were exposed in the Final against Pittsburgh, as the Penguins were just too fast. While that may be the last image Sharks fans have of Dillon, that shouldn't overshadow the fact that the defenseman did have a solid season.
2016-17 outlook: Once again, Dillon will have a new partner as David Schlemko was signed as a replacement for Roman Polak, who went back to Toronto. Schlemko may not be as physical as Polak, but he is a better puck mover and can generate more offense, which is how the game continues to trend.
Dillon’s physicality in particular should keep him in the lineup on a full-time basis after he finished third on the team in hits last season. Considering Tommy Wingels’ future is murky with the club, and the Sharks no longer have a guy like Mike Brown, it’s important to have at least a few skaters in the lineup than can deliver those heavy hits and drop the gloves when necessary. Dillon does that, and it's a big reason why he was in the lineup whenever he was available last season.
By the same token, someone like Dylan DeMelo, who took strides last season and sits seventh on the depth chart, could pressure Dillon. The organization is still hopeful that former first round pick Mirco Mueller develops into an NHL defenseman, too. There’s no question that the sixth spot is Dillon’s job at present, however, and it would be surprising if he weren’t in the lineup on opening night.