Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the San Jose Sharks free agent signings history.
San Jose Sharks Free Agent Hits and Misses
Best Signing: Antti Niemi
Antti Niemi signs with San Jose Sharks http://es.pn/cGuDS4
— ESPNChicago (@ESPNChicago) September 2, 2010
After the 2010 season, the Sharks said goodbye to long-time goalie Evgeni Nabokov. After years of being pegged as Stanley Cup favourites for several years, the Sharks felt the need to make a change. Initially, the Sharks signed Antero Niittymaki to replace Nabokov. So how does Niemi fit into all this? Well, coming off a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks, Niemi unexpectedly hit the open market. The Blackhawks were in a salary cap crunch and made the decision to let Niemi walk after his arbitration hearing.
The Sharks signed Niemi to a one-year $2 million dollar contract in September of 2010. Initially, it seems as if Niitymacki was going to win the job from Niemi, however by February, Niemi took control of the Sharks net. In 60 games, he posted a 35-18-6 record with a 3.28 GAA, 920 save percentage and six shutouts. Pretty great value for the Sharks. Niemi also helped the Sharks make a run to the Western Conference Finals in the 2011 playoffs. Niemi did so well that the Sharks re-signed Niemi to a four-year $15.4 million dollar contract.
Honourable Mention: Mike Grier
Coming out of the 2005 lockout, the Sharks signed Mike Grier to a three-year $5.3 million dollar contract. While Grier was never a high-end point producer, he was just a good hockey player. In the words of then Sharks GM Doug Wilson, “Guys like Mike are glue to a team.”.
Grier was an elite penalty killer and all-around responsible player. He led the Sharks in SH TOI (short-handed time on ice) in his three years with the team, besting the next closet player by over 300 minutes. While not the sexiest of stats, Grier was an important part of those Sharks teams. In his first two seasons in San Jose, Grier placed fifth on the Sharks in TOI/GP. While those Sharks teams were loaded with talent, Grier played an important role on a team that won 153 games during his three seasons in San Jose.
Worst Signing: Mikkel Boedker
— theScore (@theScore) July 1, 2016
The Sharks signed Mikkel Boedker hoping he would help put the Sharks over their Stanley Cup hump. The Sharks were coming off their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2015-16. Despite falling in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Sharks were hoping to run it back, one last time. Boedker was supposed to provide the Sharks with even more scoring depth, unfortunately, he never really fit in with the Sharks.
The Sharks logic was sound. Boedker was coming off a 51-point season split between the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. The former 2008 eighth overall pick seemed to be finding his game and was still only 26 years old. For whatever reason Boedker never really caught on in San Jose. In his first season with the Sharks, Boedker scored 10 goals and 26 points. By his second year, he was being scratched. The Sharks finally decided to move on from Boedker in the 2018 off-season. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators, ending an incredibly disappointing run in San Jose. Clearly he was not the missing piece to put the Sharks over the top. Boedker was a complete flop with the Sharks is what makes him the worst of all the San Jose Sharks free agent signings.
Honourable Mention: Adam Burish
The Sharks signed Adam Burish to a four-year $7.4 million dollar contract in 2012. The Sharks during this time were Cup contenders (even favourites) but constantly fell short in the postseason. Burish, while not a point producer, did earn a ring with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. After a two-year detour in Dallas, Burish was hungry for playoff hockey. The Sharks were eager to bring in some sandpaper with championship experience.
It seemed like a good match but it didn’t work out that way. Again, as a bottom-six player not much was expected from Burish in the points department. Still, Burish could not stay healthy. During his first season by the bay, Burish broke his hand in the playoffs. The following season (2013-14), he had back surgery in October. When he returned to the lineup he would break his finger blocking a shot. He would only play in 15 games during the season.
The following season Burish was waived twice by the Sharks. The final year of his contract was bought out by the Sharks. Just to show how little he played, in his first season with the Sharks, Burish played 46 of 48 games. In the following two seasons, Burish only played in 35 total games.
— Dirk Shadd (@DirkShadd) November 14, 2014