Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D
Salary cap hit: $4.25 million, signed through 2017-18
2015-16 year in review: Already known as one of the best defensive defensemen in the game, Marc-Edouard Vlasic brought some added offense to his game last season with 39 points (8g, 31a) in 67 games. It was the best offensive season of his career, as he posted 13 more points than in 2014-15 in three fewer games. His plus-15 rating was best among Sharks defensemen, and his 52.7 shot attempt-percentage was second behind Brent Burns.
After missing the final 12 games of the regular season with a lower body injury, Vlasic returned for the playoffs and was outstanding. He and partner Justin Braun helped to shut down the opposition’s most dangerous scorers through the first three rounds, keeping Tyler Toffoli, Filip Forsberg and Vladimir Tarasenko at bay, while he posted 12 points (1g, 11a) and a team-high plus-14 rating in 24 games.
San Jose posted a middling 7-7-1 mark when Vlasic was out of the lineup.
2016-17 outlook: No deep analysis is needed here – Vlasic is still the Sharks’ best defensive weapon against the opposition’s best players. He’ll undoubtedly be paired with Braun again when the regular season begins.
It’s always worth mentioning, too, that Vlasic has been among the league’s biggest bargain players since he signed a five-year, $21.25 million contract in 2012. With two years left to go on the deal, Vlasic will be in a position next summer to command big bucks, much like Burns is now. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll expect a bigger-than-normal raise after being underpaid for so long.
Regardless, Vlasic – currently competing for Canada at the World Cup of Hockey – is the glue that holds the Sharks’ defense core together.