Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a new Sharks player every day leading up to the start of NHL training camp
Name/Position: Justin Braun, defenseman
Salary: $1.5 million ($1.25 million cap hit)
Contract status: Pending unrestricted free agent in 2015
2013-14 year in review: After playing through a left hand injury that hindered him for much of the 2013 shortened season, Braun established himself as one of the Sharks’ most important defenseman in what was a breakthrough year for the Minnesota native last season.
He was one of four Sharks to play in all 82 games, and was second on the team in ice time per game (20:59). He scored four goals and added 13 assists for 17 points, all career highs, but more importantly he became one of the team’s most reliable blueliners.
2014-15 outlook: Braun will undoubtedly play in the Sharks’ top four on defense, perhaps even as a part of the top pair with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, his partner for much of last season.
That will depend mostly on where the Sharks slot Brent Burns, who will be returning to the blue line after a season and a half as a forward. Either way, Braun will be one of the players that is counted on nightly if the team is going to have any success.
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If there’s one area that six-foot-two, 205-pounder could improve, it’s generating a little more offensively and improving on his scoring output.
Now that Dan Boyle is gone, the right-handed shooting Braun could get more of a look on the power play after averaging just over a minute a game there last season. On the other end, Braun will remain as one of the team’s best penalty killers for a unit that finished sixth in the league.
The Sharks have been in discussions with Braun’s camp about a possible contract extension, and although nothing has been reached yet, indications are that the lines remain open and something could be finalized shortly.
Getting the up-and-coming former seventh round pick inked to a new deal before the season starts would likely be preferable to both parties, as Braun is firmly a part of the team’s young core.