Could it be the end of an era in San Jose?
The Sharks were bounced from the Western Conference Final in six games by the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, marking a disappointing finish for a team that undoubtedly had a Stanley Cup-or-bust mentality.
This was supposed to be San Jose's year. With the beloved Joe Thornton on his last legs vying for his first Stanley Cup, the acquisition of pending UFA Erik Karlsson, a handful of youngsters playing out their entry-level deals, and a supremely skilled lineup in its prime, it seemed at times like the Sharks were a team of destiny.
From a pure talent perspective, this was arguably the best Sharks roster ever assembled. Yes, even better than the 117-point Presidents' Trophy-winning squad in 2008-09, or the team that lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.
But after falling short of the ultimate goal, it's possible the roster could undergo a dramatic transformation this offseason, leaving in the dust the organization's best chance at a Stanley Cup.
Who's coming back?
The Sharks are projected to enter the offseason with $24.7 million in cap space, but they have a bevy of both unrestricted and restricted free agents in need of new contracts.
Nearly every player on this list - with the exception of Thornton and Micheal Haley - will be due for a raise this summer. It's possible Thornton, who's had multiple knee surgeries over the past few years, will retire. That would leave a hole down the middle of San Jose's lineup, and an even bigger void in the dressing room.
Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc will be in line for the team's most significant salary increases. Both youngsters enjoyed breakout seasons, and it's possible they'll combine for an annual cap hit close to $10 million, putting a dent in San Jose's spending flexibility.