SAN JOSE –- A pattern emerged shortly after the Sharks hired Pete DeBoer last summer.
One by one, nearly all of the new additions to the San Jose roster could be traced back to the head coach somehow. Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling all played for DeBoer at some point, while Roman Polak and James Reimer were familiar to Steve Spott, DeBoer’s longtime assistant.
Mikkel Boedker is the latest player now in teal that used to perform for DeBoer. In 2008, they won an OHL championship together on the Kitchener Rangers.
Boedker signed a four-year, $16 million contract with San Jose on Friday.
“He’s one of those players you coach over your career where he makes an impression both as a player, but also as a person,” DeBoer said. “I understand what he can do. He has some untapped upside that we haven’t seen yet, and real excited to get him and work with him again.”
Boedker gives the Sharks added depth at the wing position, and also more speed, something every team seems to be in search of lately –- especially after watching the fleet-footed Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup. He tied a career high with 51 points in 2015-16 with the Coyotes and Avalanche (although his minus-33 rating was dead last in the NHL).
He had some other opportunities around the league, and according to Doug Wilson, the 26-year-old Boedker “left money on the table and he left term on the table.”
Ultimately, though, the appeal of playing for DeBoer, and for a team that was so close to winning a Stanley Cup last season, was enough to sway Boedker towards San Jose.
“There were teams with more money and that sort of thing, but I chose to follow my [gut] and follow what I thought was right, and that was going to San Jose and trying to live out my dream in winning a Stanley Cup,” Boedker said.
“I chose San Jose for a number of reasons. The obvious is that Pete is there, and the other obvious one [is] they proved this year that they can win, and they are a contender.”
The question now is where Boedker will slot in, and there were no real hints from DeBoer or Wilson on where he would play. DeBoer, though, was quick to indicate that Boedker will get a chance to skate with better players than he has so far in his career, which includes 445 of 463 games in Arizona. The Coyotes have been among the NHL’s bottom dwellers for the past few seasons.
DeBoer said: “He creates offense. He always has his whole career. … I think some of those situations he hasn’t had an opportunity to play with some of the people -– and particularly some of the centermen –- that he’s going to have an opportunity to play with for us.”
Boedker figures he'll bring “hopefully some more speed. I think that’s something my game is built on. I play fast, and hopefully I can get some good chemistry with the guys that are there now.”
The addition of Boedker does, however, present some uncertainty to the Sharks roster in terms of their next move. According to websites that track salary cap information, the Sharks have approximately $3 million of space with restricted free agents Matt Nieto and Dylan DeMelo yet to agree to terms. There’s also still a vacancy at backup goalie, although Aaron Dell signed a two-year contract on Friday, so he’s probably the frontrunner to secure that gig at a minimal salary cap hit.
Ideally, the Sharks probably don’t want to operate right up against the cap during the season, though. That could mean that Nieto and/or Tommy Wingels are on the cusp of losing their jobs, or perhaps the Sharks have a bigger move in mind, such as trading Patrick Marleau.
When asked if the Sharks might have to subtract someone, Wilson said: “Not necessarily. I think there’s flexibility within it. You try to add the pieces you want to your team. You want to have a lot of competition. We want some of these young guys to come in and take jobs, too.”
There’s time to sort that all out, of course, as training camp doesn’t begin for another two-and-a-half months. For now, the Sharks seem to have improved upon a roster that was competing in the Stanley Cup Final just three weeks ago.
Boedker and defenseman David Schlemko, signed to a four-year contract earlier in the day, make them a deeper team.
“We just got beat by a team with Phil Kessel, who’s an [$8 million] player on the third line,” DeBoer said, referring to the Penguins. “That shows you what kind of mismatches you can create when you have that type of depth. It’s a nice problem to have, and we’ll find a way to deal with it.”
Boedker said: “Hopefully I can be a piece of the puzzle that rolls it over the edge. … In a perfect world they win it, and I’m a part of it.”