SAN JOSE — In an ideal world, the Vegas Golden Knights will pluck Mikkel Boedker off the Sharks roster at the NHL’s expansion draft on June 21, giving the team a clean break from what proved to be a disastrous free agent signing last summer.
Boedker failed to meet the expectations of the four-year, $16 million contract he signed with the club last July, scoring a career low of 10 goals and serving as a healthy scratch in two Stanley Cup playoff games against the Edmonton Oilers last week.
General manager Doug Wilson could surely use the $12 million remaining on Boedker’s contract when he enters negotiations with pending-unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau this summer, but it’s unlikely that the NHL’s newest team would be willing to take on his salary without additional incentives from the Sharks.
With that being said, the Sharks will probably need to turn to plan B and get the top-six production and consistent effort they envisioned from Boedker when they brought him aboard last year.
“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, pk ability,” Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself? No. That we had for him? No. But can we get that out of him? Pete (DeBoer) believes we can.”
Boedker acknowledges that he initially struggled to adjust to DeBoer’s system, which requires more aggressive forechecking than the defensive style of play preached by Dave Tippett, his former coach with the Arizona Coyotes.
But systemic differences don’t account for why Boedker got benched for the third periods of games on Nov. 26 and Jan. 19, and scratched from the lineup completely on Jan. 5 and in games 3 and 4 of the Sharks series with the Oilers.
Regardless, DeBoer expressed confidence in Boedker’s ability to improve on the 26 points in 81 games that he recorded with the Sharks this season.
“He’s leaving here with a clear idea of the expectation now, and we’re expecting big things out of him next year,” DeBoer said. “We need him. We need him to take a step.”
Boedker still thinks he will be a good fit for the Sharks in the long run.
“I think it will be and it can be,” Boedker said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change, and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to do that.”
Youth movement: Boedker isn’t the only player who needs to take a step forward next year.
Although the Sharks have a lot of young talent in the organization, they relied too much on their veteran corps for offense as Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture accounted for 50.2 percent of the team’s goals.
Joonas Donskoi took a step backward, producing just 17 points in 61 games, after playing a key role in the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last year. DeBoer also wants to see a breakthrough effort from Chris Tierney, who recorded 23 points in 80 games.
The team is also expecting to get significant contributions from Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen in their sophomore campaigns.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that I think there’s a lot of potential,” the Sharks coach said. “There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step and show that they’re not just one season or one-month players.”
Outstanding job: Wilson providing a ringing endorsement of the Sharks coaching staff Monday, commending them for putting together a respectable follow up to their first season with the team in which they reached the Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks general manager said he’ll make final decisions about whether to bring back DeBoer’s entire staff, which includes Bob Boughner, Steve Spott, Johan Hedberg and Dan Darrow, in the near future.
“I think they did an outstanding job when you … go through the last 12 months with a compressed schedule, very few practices, integrating players, I’m very pleased with their performance,” Wilson said. “I think there’s things that they want to do better. We all have to take a look back and be honest and say, since we’re not playing now, what can we do better.”
At the top of the coaching staff’s to-do list will be improving the power play, which entered the playoffs with the lowest ranking (25th, 16.7 percent) amongst the 16 teams in the tournament after finishing third in the NHL last year.
The power play went 5-for-26 (19.2 percent) in the playoffs, but four of those goals came in Game 4.
“It’s got to be better,” Wilson said. “It’s not the percentage or the numbers, it’s when you score goals and we certainly have the talent, and historically, we’ve done very well.”