However, at 40 years old, the big question is whether he will want to return or retire. According to the team website, there have been rumblings that he could sign for less than last year's $3.5 million salary; there have also been reports that he might retire to the front office.
Since we cannot be sure whether he will want to play, the appropriate thing to do is analyse his future under the assumption he will return. Because Blake's contributions are likely to diminish and he is not in the long-term future of a team that has so many free agents to sign, any return would have to come with a drop in salary.
The fact that Blake came off a pretty good season in which, including the playoffs, he was the second-best player on the blueline means the team should want him back under these preconditions. To find an appropriate compensation level, one only need look at the other defencemen's salaries.
His defence partner, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, makes $3.1 million. The struggles of the team and in particular Blake during Vlasic's time off with injury proved he is more vital than Blake, and being 17 years younger means that gap will only widen: Blake cannot justifiably make more than Pickles.
With Douglas Murray no longer a liability on the offensive end--even if he is not yet an asset--he has more value in 2010-11 than Blake. He is also unquestionably the Sharks best hitter and defender, and even has comparable skills to Blake in getting the puck out of his own end, and blocking shots.
Moreover, Murray has likely not peaked yet, so while with Blake was the better player in the past season, he is not likely to be as much an asset--even given the intangibles--in the next. Since Murray makes $2.5 million per year, that would seem to be the most the Sharks can reasonably afford to pay the veteran, especially given there are other blueline options to step up but few other places the team can save money against the salary cap.
In other words, if Blake wants to play and is willing to make no more than $2.5 million per year, I think the team would want him back. No one (maybe not even Blake) knows whether he can skate away from the game yet. My gut says no because the team came so close, but coupled with the potential he and the team cannot find a salary compromise, the chances are probably less than even he plays in San Jose next season.