SAN JOSE - To say that the Sharks' blue line got banged up over last season is a bit of an understatement.
In addition to the long stretch of time Erik Karlsson missed with a groin injury, Marc-Edouard-Vlasic and Justin Braun were sidelined with their respective ailments, and Radim Simek had his stellar rookie season cut short by a knee injury that required surgery.
When it came to filling the void left by San Jose's blueliners, Joakim Ryan was one Shark who was called upon to pencil into the lineup, ending the season with 44 regular-season games under his belt.
Now, Ryan is set to be a restricted free agent on July 1, and his future with the team -- like just about everyone else's on the free agent list -- is unclear. Here's a look at why he could stay in San Jose, and why he could be long gone.
Why he could stay
San Jose's defense is short a left-handed shot after trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesay. With Jacob Middleton being the only other left-hander coming up the pipeline, Ryan might be the Sharks' only readily-available defenseman to fill that void. If Ryan stays, it's possible he and Middleton could fight for the same job.
Ryan also has experience playing alongside a Norris Trophy-winner in Brent Burns. The Cornell product had the difficult task of being "on call" for most of the season and most of that time was spent paired up with the Wookiee. Ryan was also the only defenseman coach Peter DeBoer put into the lineup during the playoffs when Erik Karlsson aggravated his groin injury.
Why he could go
Remember, Ryan started off the regular season alongside Burns before essentially being knocked out of that spot by Simek. Even as DeBoer called on him to fill in other times throughout the season, the coach still said on multiple occasions that he wanted to see more out of the 26-year-old who ended the season with seven assists and at a minus-15.
It's also highly unlikely the Sharks are done moving personnel around this summer as they make room to accommodate high priority free agents set to hit the market on July 1. Even with the Braun trade freeing up some cap space, San Jose can't keep every RFA and UFA on its current list of 21 players.
Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc -- both RFAs -- are likely to get locked into contracts before Ryan is.
Although the Braun trade appears to leave the door open for Ryan to stay and get another chance at holding down a spot in San Jose's starting lineup, there's no guarantee the Sharks sign him to a deal. The coaching staff needed more out of him this past season, and the team is likely looking to sign other RFAs first.
With that in mind, it's possible Ryan could be playing somewhere else next season.
[RELATED: Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks]
For those worried about where that leaves the Sharks' defense, keep in mind: San Jose has a history of making trades over the weekend of the draft, so moves to San Jose's defense could still be made even within the week.
There's no reason to think the Sharks are done piecing next season's defense together just yet. Where Ryan could fit into that mix, however, is difficult to determine.