Sharks free-agency decisions: Will Joonas Donskoi stay or go this summer?

Chelena Goldman
Here's a look at why Joonas Donskoi could be a Sharks next year, and why he could be headed for a new team before the offseason is over.
Here's a look at why Joonas Donskoi could be a Sharks next year, and why he could be headed for a new team before the offseason is over.

Sharks free-agency decisions: Will Joonas Donskoi stay or go this summer? originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

Joonas Donskoi's wraparound goal against the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup playoffs this year wasn't just a perfect replica of his game-winner from Game 3 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

The Sharks winger's tally in Game 7 of the second-round playoff series was his first of the postseason, ending a scoring drought that spanned 39 games and resulted in him being scratched from the lineup on more than one occasion. 

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Now, after a streaky 2018-19 campaign, the Finnish forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Here's a look at why he could sign a deal and stay in San Jose, and why he could be on a new team next season.

Why he could stay

Despite Donskoi losing his place in the lineup, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer acknowledged in May that Donskoi's slump wasn't due to a lack of effort. 

"Some of that's confidence. Unfortunately, you can't sit around and wait for months for a guy's confidence to click in," he said in March when Donskoi was a healthy scratch against the Nashville Predators. "As a pro, you've got to find a way to make sure those times when the confidence is going, and when it isn't, are closer together."

Donskoi ended the regular season tying his career high of 14 goals. He did, after that, find his game in time to help the Sharks in the playoffs. Donskoi helped jumpstart San Jose's fourth line -- and of course, deposited that big goal that helped the Sharks advance to the Western Conference final.

There's every chance that Donskoi could have a bounceback season next year. San Jose needs more production from its depth players next year, and a rejuvenated Donskoi, who can be moved up and down the lineup, could provide that.

Why he could go

Although Donskoi told the press on locker cleanout day that he would like to stay in San Jose, it looks like he's already exploring options with other teams.

The Sharks are really feeling the effects of the salary-cap crunch after defenseman Erik Karlsson signed a massive eight-year extension, and Donskoi could potentially be one of those players San Jose doesn't have the bandwidth to keep.

On the upside for him, teams reportedly are showing strong interest in the 27-year-old winger. If he's able to get a good deal with another team, it could be the change of scenery he needs for a bounceback season.

[RELATED: Here's every game on the Sharks' 2019-20 schedule]

The verdict

The door hasn't closed on Donskoi staying in San Jose for the foreseeable future. But with the Sharks having so little cap space to work with and other teams showing interest this summer, it's looking increasingly likely that he'll be playing somewhere else next season.

While Donskoi's contributions to the Sharks' offense will be missed, a fresh start with a new team could rejuvenate him. Being a versatile forward with the ability to find the back of the net at pivotal moments should make him appealing to plenty of teams.

Donskoi is a good candidate to bounce back, even it happens elsewhere. 

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