When it came to filling the void created by an injured Erik Karlsson, Tim Heed was often tasked with the job. The 28-year-old defenseman played a big role when the Sharks' blue line was riddled with injuries this past season, and put together the best regular-season campaign of his professional career.
Now, Heed is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Like everyone else on San Jose's long list of pending free agents, his future with the team isn't entirely clear.
Here's a look at why Tim Heed could still be playing for the Sharks next season, and why he could also be headed out the door.
Why he could stay
Of the blueliners who came off the bench this past season, Heed was the most productive with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 37 games played. He was also effective on the defensive side of the puck, ending the season with a plus-9 rating, which was tied for fourth best on the team with Timo Meier. WIth room to improve on last season, Heed could be a good option for San Jose,
Sharks' head coach Peter DeBoer was complimentary of Heed when he penciled him into the lineup on Dec. 23 for the first time in a month. In that game, Heed opened up the scoring for the Sharks with a power-play goal and DeBoer extended Heed's ice time as the game wore on. Heed even took a couple of shifts alongside Norris Trophy candidate Brent Burns.
"He's worked awful hard off the ice and practicing in order to wait for these opportunities," DeBoer said of Heed at the time. "You never know how they're going to come. Is it an injury? Suspension? He did a good job tonight."
If the Sharks need someone to come off the bench in the future, Heed is a good candidate.
Why he could go
While having someone like Heed in San Jose's arsenal can be beneficial, the Sharks may still be looking to move him in an effort to free up cap space.
The Sharks have already started the process of freeing up cap space by trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week. There will likely be more trades to come before the market opens on July 1 since the Sharks have 20 pending free agents outside of Heed who still don't have contracts.
If San Jose needs to free up more room to sign their big-name UFAs, Heed could be sent to another team.
Heed showed last season he can rise to the occasion when called upon and seems to fit in well with various other members of San Jose's blue line. If the Sharks are able to keep him, there's room for him to grow and continue helping the defense out. But with the Sharks likely not done making trades to gain space under the cap, Heed could have already played his last game in San Jose.