After losing a lot of talent in free agency, the San Jose Sharks locked up a young player who should be crucial to their success next season.
San Jose on Monday re-signed 23-year-old forward Kevin Labanc to a one-year, $1 million contract. With Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist gone , the Sharks are counting on Labanc continuing his career progression and taking advantage of a bigger role.
"We know that his best hockey's ahead of him," general manager Doug Wilson said. "We think it's an important contract for us but also a great opportunity for a guy that we know his game is just going to grow and become a part of the core of our team."
Labanc set career highs with 17 goals including four game-winners, 39 assists and 56 points last season and helped the Sharks reach the Western Conference final. His most memorable moments came in Game 7 of the first round when he had three assists and the go-ahead goal on the power play in the third period that propelled the Sharks to knock off Vegas.
He became the first player in NHL history to record four points in a single period in a Game 7 of a playoff series.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't watch the highlights from that game a couple times," Labanc said.
Labanc developed his all-around game during his third NHL season and showed he could produce with talented linemates. He thrived with Joe Thornton and Marcus Sorensen but could see time with the likes of Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture in 2019-20.
"There's a lot of opportunity up there," Labanc said. "Last year was a good stepping stone for me to kind of prove myself that I can handle that top-six role."
After the Montreal Canadiens signed Carolina restricted free agent centre Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, that strategy has been the talk of the league . But Labanc said he was not contacted by any other teams and was glad to bet on himself by taking a one-year deal with the Sharks.