Mike Grier

Sharks 2023-24 projected roster with Erik Karlsson trade done

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The Sharks trading star defenseman Erik Karlsson was all about the future.

They received important future commodities, like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2024 first-round pick and cap space for the 2025-26 season and on.

Even the acquisitions of 30-something veterans like Mikael Granlund, Jan Rutta, and Mike Hoffman were more about the future, as the first-round pick was the reward for absorbing their contracts. The hope is to eventually flip those players.

But speaking of the present, center-winger Granlund, winger Hoffman, and defenseman Rutta are here in San Jose. What does that mean for the 2023-24 Sharks?

Sharks GM Mike Grier spoke a lot about the future on Sunday, but he also talked about Granlund, Hoffman, and Rutta, and how he’s trying to build this year’s Sharks.

Will Grier add more players this offseason?

Grier on the Sharks' plans: “As always, I'll look at trying to make the team better or do what's right for the organization. While I'm not at the moment planning on doing anything, we'll see if anything comes up as we move forward. If there's something that's presented to us that makes sense, we'll definitely look at it.”

Takeaway: All of a sudden, the Sharks are flush with forwards.

They’ve got 14 NHL forwards who aren’t waiver-exempt: Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Granlund, Kevin Labanc, Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Luke Kunin, Alexander Barabanov, Oskar Lindblom, Nico Sturm, Fabian Zetterlund, Filip Zadina, Givani Smith, and Jacob Peterson.

Prospects William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau also will be in the mix to make the opening night roster.

So while intriguing unrestricted free-agent forwards Patrick Kane, Tomas Tatar, and Max Comtois remain on the market, it’s hard to see Grier adding up front, unless they plan on subtracting too.

They’ve got eight NHL defensemen who aren’t waiver-exempt: Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mario Ferraro, Rutta, Radim Simek, Matt Benning, Nikolai Knyzhov, Kyle Burroughs, and Jacob MacDonald.

Prospects Henry Thrun, Nikita Okhotiuk, and Leon Gawanke are waiting in the wings.

In Karlsson’s absence, the Sharks have a need for someone to quarterback their top power play, but there aren’t any obvious UFA options available. Regardless, the Sharks have a glut on the blueline too.

So Grier may have nothing new up his sleeve from now until camp. We’ll see -- a trade certainly is possible.

There is an interesting pattern with most of the new forwards that Grier has picked up.


Grier on the Vladimir Tarasenko pursuit: "He was one of the forwards that we did explore earlier in the summer. We had some conversations with him," Grier said Sunday. “The idea was basically to try and inject someone who can pump some offense into the lineup. We had the idea that we might need to replace Erik at some point, whether that was this summer or during the season. We felt like we needed to add some more scoring.

“Now we ended up with Hoffman, who is not too dissimilar of a player as someone who should be able to add some goals to the line-up.”

Grier on Mike Hoffman: “For Hoffman, he's always scored. I think he'll continue to do the same here. He'll obviously get an opportunity to play with good centermen and get power play time and things like that. My expectation is that he comes in here and does what he seems to always do and that's score goals. He'll inject a little offense into the line-up, along with [Duclair] and Granlund.

“Like we talked about a little bit earlier on this call, it's everyone chipping in to add a little bit more offense to the group and help us replace some of the offense and not be so reliant on Erik as we were at times last year.”

Grier on Mikael Granlund: “At the end of the day, that'll be a decision Quinny and his staff will have to make, but I think that's one of the strong points of him as a player is that he's got the ability to play wing and center. He does them both pretty well and he plays a strong two-way game.

“We'll have to see how training camp goes and see who he gels with. But I think there's a possibility he could be a top-six winger or he could be a center as well.”

Takeaway: Grier missed out on Tarasenko, but Hoffman, Granlund, Duclair, and even Zadina are all high-upside forwards who were acquired for low prices.

Tarasenko is a six-time 30-goal scorer, Hoffman averaged 28 goals per season from 2014 to 2020, Granlund is a three-time 60-point scorer, Duclair put up 31 goals in 2021-22, and Zadina was the No. 6 overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft.

But all -- be it because of age or injury or performance -- slipped last season.

If any of them find their game though -- perhaps Hoffman, Granlund, or Duclair could fetch a high pick in a trade? Or the 23-year-old Zadina can be part of the Sharks’ core? -- you figure the San Jose braintrust will want to see what they’ve got. Hoffman, Granlund, Duclair, and Zadina should break camp with the Sharks.

Stalwarts Hertl, Couture, Kunin, Barabanov, and Sturm should be safe, too.

That leaves about four roster spots for Labanc, Lindblom, Zetterlund, Smith, Peterson, Eklund, and Bordeleau to contend for.

Zetterlund, a key piece in the Timo Meier trade, should receive the benefit of the doubt. Tough guy Smith fills a role that no one else can on the Sharks.

So could that mean Labanc, Lindblom, Peterson, Eklund, and Bordeleau for two roster spots?

Might we see veterans Labanc or Lindblom sent down to the San Jose Barracuda? Labanc’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors this off-season.


Grier on who’s going to take over for Karlsson on the power play: “It's going to be internal. We'll give these guys opportunity at training camp and exhibition games, take a little bit more responsibility and try and chip in a little bit more offensively.

“But at the same time, these guys are in the league for a reason, and they're on our team for a reason. For most of them, it's not to be an offensive player. Sometimes, players can fall into that trap where they try and do too much and they change their game, and it becomes something that is not beneficial to them or the team.

“We'll still be able on the lookout for trying to maybe add something, whether that's this year or in the future, someone that can probably bring a little bit more offense to the backend.”

Grier on Jan Rutta: “Jan is someone who's a steady right shot D. Coaches, wherever he goes, enjoy coaching him and end up depending on him.

“He'll be good on special teams. He is someone who might be able to give us a little bit of power play as well as the penalty kill. I'm sure he'll end up being a staple on the penalty kill.

“He's someone who's a high character guy and he's won two Stanley Cups, and I don't think that can be overstated enough. I think whenever you can bring in guys who have won and know what it takes to win in this league and have gone through that battle, not only to win it once, but to win it twice, I think that's a pretty valuable thing to bring into our locker room. Especially with some of our younger guys.”

Takeaway: In his six-year NHL career, Rutta has played a total of 36 power play minutes.

That underscores the plight of the San Jose power play -- they have zero natural PP options on the blueline.

Karlsson scored 101 points last season. Vlasic, Ferraro, Rutta, Simek, Benning, Knyzhov, Burroughs, and MacDonald combined for 77. Benning, who manned the second power play after Karlsson last season, is the leader of that pack with just 24 points.

MacDonald and Gawanke have scored 20 goals ... but in the AHL. They have zero offensive track record in the NHL.

Well, at least the Sharks figure to have a deep penalty kill: Vlasic, Ferraro, Benning, Rutta, and Burroughs were go-to PK’ers last season.

Perhaps the Sharks run five forwards on their top power play unit?

Opening night roster prediction

Grier: “Like I've said from Day 1, it's all about competition for me. We'll have a competitive training camp. Even the guys on one-way contracts, these guys are gonna have to earn their spots.

“For the young players, I expect them to come in hungry and ready. If they perform and outplay veteran guys, then they'll get the opportunity and we'll figure the rest out. I don't want to block anyone's pathway. If our young guys have put in the time this summer, trained, come to camp, and they're better, then they'll get the opportunity.

“For me, that's what the game is about. These guys have to take the job. We're not going to give them a job because of their prospect pedigree or where they were drafted. They need to come to camp and take the job away from the veteran and the veteran [has] got to do his best to hold on to the job. That's what camp will be about.

“There will still be plenty of opportunity for these guys to earn a place on the team and it's going to be up to them to show that they're ready to take the opportunity.”

Here’s my way-too-early opening night roster prediction:
















I’m going with a full 23-man roster because Okhotiuk is not waiver-exempt, and the Sharks likely will want to see him in NHL action before they risk losing him on waivers.

In this scenario, Lindblom, Peterson, MacDonald, Gawanke, and Simek are candidates for trade or waivers.

Bordeleau is sent down.

Personally, I like the idea of youngsters needing to take jobs from the veterans. I expect Eklund and Thrun to do that. If you can’t take a job on the fourth-worst team in the league ... maybe you’re not quite an NHL-ready player yet.

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