SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks owner Hasso Plattner keeps close tabs on the organization and was no doubt aware of how badly his team was outclassed last week in losses to the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Obviously, to lose the way we have lost,” Sharks general manager Mike Grier said Monday, “I’m sure it’s been alarming to him.”
Grier, though, said he’s been in regular contact with Plattner and has his support as the Sharks go through an extended rebuild for one of the few times in their history. San Jose, which has a 0-10-1 record going into Tuesday’s game with the Philadelphia Flyers, has multiple needs to address and is all but assured of missing the playoffs for a fifth straight season.
Plattner, a titan of the tech industry who was worth $16.2 billion, per Bloomberg, as of Monday, keeps a low profile when it comes to the Sharks and in recent years has opted to issue statements about the team through press releases rather than speak publicly. Although he finalized the decision to hire Grier in July 2022, he did not attend Grier’s introductory press conference due to what was described at the time as a prior commitment overseas.
But Grier said Plattner attended the Sharks’ first two home games of the season last month when they lost 4-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights and 2-1 in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche. It does not appear that he attended the Sharks’ losses to Vancouver and Pittsburgh, which, by contrast, were by a combined score of 20-3.
Asked last month about when Plattner wants to see the Sharks emerge from this rebuilding phase, team president Jonathan Becher didn’t hesitate for a moment before he said, “The sooner, the better.”
Grier is in his second full year as the Sharks’ general manager and while he doesn’t want to rush the rebuild, he also doesn’t want it to last for another half-dozen years.
San Jose will have tens of millions in salary cap space available prior to the 2025-2026 season, and Grier is hoping some of the players the team has drafted the last two years, plus whoever they select with their first pick next summer, can be close to being NHL ready at that point.
Still, the Sharks will need a lot of things to go right for them to quickly return to the type of prominence they enjoyed earlier in the Plattner era.
From 2002, when Plattner was part of a group that bought the team from original owner George Gund III, to 2019, nine years after he became the majority owner, the Sharks advanced to the playoffs in 14 of 16 seasons, reached the Western Conference final five times and the Stanley Cup Final once in 2016. Plattner is now the Sharks’ sole owner.
“We’ve had some conversations where he’s been very, very supportive of what we’re trying to do here and the direction we’re going and the things that need to happen,” Grier said of Plattner, who turns 80 in January. “I’m very grateful for that support he’s offering me. Hopefully, for him — he loves this team and organization so much — that we get it turned around, and he deserves that.”
TRADE STRATEGY: The number fluctuates, but the Sharks, per CapFriendly, are projected to have about $13.5 million in salary cap space by March’s trade deadline. Grier wants to be able to weaponize that space, perhaps by taking on a sizeable contract or being a third team that can partly reduce a player’s cap hit, to earn some extra draft capital.
Grier was asked, though, if that plan would perhaps be accelerated if a team came looking for some cap relief right now, which could, in turn, bolster the Sharks roster. The Sharks presently have about $3.5 million in cap space, and NHL general managers will meet next week in Toronto.
“It’s kind of either-or, I guess,” Grier said. “If you can accrue some more space and heading into the deadline, that will obviously be beneficial for us. But if something came along here where the team was really in trouble, and felt like they needed to clear some space to add a player they want or do something they need to do and it made sense for us, short-term and especially long-term, it’s definitely something we’d look at.”
CALL UP THE KIDS?: Grier said the Sharks have discussed bringing up defensemen Henry Thrun and Shakir Mukhamadullin or forward Danil Gushchin from the Barracuda. However, the organization wants to make sure the environment is right before they drop a younger player into the equation.
“I would like us to kind of get our act together up here, get the structure together, and be playing the right way before we drop a 21, 22-year-old kid in here,” Grier said. “Not too dissimilar from (William Eklund), expecting him to come in here and be the savior to score goals. We’ve got to kind of clean things up a little bit up top and then I’m sure there’s going to be guys like Gushchin who will get opportunities at some point up here.”
DIMINISHING RETURN?: The Sharks have nine pending unrestricted free agents and forward Anthony Duclair leads that group with three points in 11 games.
Others that might get moved at the trade deadline, including wingers Mike Hoffman, Kevin Labanc, or Alexander Barabanov, have also struggled to score, although Barabanov has a broken finger and won’t return for another two or three weeks at least.
Is their lack of production hurting their value on the trade market?
“I think all those guys have a pretty good track record of who they are,” Grier said. “Teams have an idea of what they are and I think other teams and general managers also realize that this has been a tough start for them, so it’s tough to just look at the numbers. I think they realize what’s going on here and it’s not necessarily an individual thing, but all that stuff’s pretty far down the road.”