There weren’t any internet-breaking, blockbuster trades over the weekend at the NHL draft in Buffalo. The Sharks didn’t make a single move other than using the five picks they arrived with, none higher than the 60th overall selection in the second round in which they chose center Dylan Gambrell.
The next notable date on the NHL calendar is on the horizon, though, as Friday, July 1 marks the beginning of free agency. The Sharks will have some work to do, considering general manager Doug Wilson all but confirmed that Dainius Zubrus, Nick Spaling, Roman Polak and James Reimer would not be re-signed after they provided some needed depth for the Western Conference champs down the stretch and in the playoffs.
“Some of the guys that we added, we’ll probably let them get to market,” Wilson said on a conference call Saturday.
That leaves vacancies at all three positions. Wilson indicated some could be filled with younger players ready for NHL duty, but the Sharks will almost certainly have to add at least one or two established NHL players, too. They should have some salary cap space to work with after the threshold increased to $73 million for 2016-17.
“You’re probably going to be looking for a [goaltender],” Wilson continued. “The defense situation, [Dylan] DeMelo and [Mirco] Mueller – who finished the season really well last year. It was a good year that [Mueller] was down with the Barracuda; we really like how he progressed in the last month, in particular.
“A whole bunch of forwards, obviously, will be competing for a few spots. So, we’ll get to development camp and see where they’re at, but in the meantime, we’re looking.”
None of the players the Sharks selected in Buffalo will get a sniff of the NHL roster next season, but one prospect that will be under the spotlight will be last year’s ninth overall choice, Timo Meier. The 19-year-old right wing (20 on Oct. 8) is coming off of a brilliant junior season in which he had 90 points (34g, 56a) in 52 games in the Quebec league.
Meier already has the size to play in the NHL, at six-foot-one and 209 pounds, and in training camp last September he made an impression with his combination of skill and physicality. He is almost certainly the Sharks’ most NHL-ready prospect that hasn’t yet made the leap, and that includes Mueller and Nikolay Goldobin.
“The things I liked about him, it’s really hard to find a package of a guy that plays with that type of power, that type of body, and also has a high skill level. Those guys are rare,” Pete DeBoer said last September.
“He was a lot closer [to making the team] than people might know.”
Wilson was asked if Meier could potentially make the Sharks this time around.
“He’ll make that decision with his play. The coaches certainly have no problem playing younger players,” Wilson said. “You look around the league, you see young guys coming in making a difference on good teams.”
Still, Wilson is assuredly making some calls now that the window to speak with potential free agents opened at 9 p.m. PT on Friday. He successfully added pieces to the team’s veteran core last offseason, and he’s looking to do it again, even though this summer it will likely be role players in focus more than the top end guys that were added last July in Joel Ward and Paul Martin.
“This is a place that players want to play, and some guys that fit for us, if it makes sense we’ll certainly explore it," Wilson said. “Whether it be in the next week or so, whether it be early in the season, or up to the trade deadline, we think we have a team that deserves to have players added that gives us a chance to win. Just like this year.”
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The Sharks will hold their annual prospect scrimmage at Sharks Ice on Tuesday, July 12, with the time TBD. Development camp runs July 7-12.