Shark-Infested Blogger

July 8, 2010 4:35 PM

Sharks Free Agency 2010: The Good

The Sharks mountain to climb this off-season was as well-documented as it was high. The team had a dozen free agents who played at the NHL level last season with expiring contracts, and no cap room with which to operate.

To make matters worse, several of them were working off out-dated contracts and would be due substantial raises. More than half of them were unrestricted free agents, giving the team little negotiating power, especially given that money does not go as far in the Bay Area as it does in the rest of the country.

Yet General Manager Doug Wilson managed to re-sign enough of the team that made it to the Western Conference Finals to make them a contender to do so again. The theme of the series examining the moves is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; this piece focuses on the good, in order of the most to least important.

4462994667_df971cd1e3.jpgJoe Pavelski may not have signed the biggest contract of the group re-signed, and is not yet better than Patrick Marleau. Still, no player was a larger priority for the Sharks to re-sign than The Big Pavelski.

Pavelski emerged as a top penalty killer and power play asset while anchoring a good second line. He is young enough to be a cornerstone of this franchise for the remainder of the decade, and almost certainly will get better.

Oh, and he led the team in scoring in the playoffs.

Sure, he was a restricted free agent, and that helped get him re-signed. But he is only the fifth-highest paid Shark and is under contract through 2014--an accomplishment even considering the team's favourable negotiating position.

Scott Nichol is the team's next best signing. Yes, he is projected to be a fourth-line centre, and is good for maybe 20 points a season. But he is an essential penalty killer, especially in light of the loss of Manny Malhotra, is great in the faceoff circle, and offers both speed and experience otherwise missing on the checking lines.

All of that for $760,000 on a team that is financially strapped. Maybe beans and rice are not the most appetizing food, but they can give you sustenance when you have little money in your pocket and make a nice side dish when you can spend more.

Patrick Marleau was the face of the franchise, and long-speculating to be on his way out. But the reality is he was the team's only reliable scorer after the first round of the playoffs, has improved defensively enough to be a top-tier penalty killer and is huge on the power play. Getting him for under $7 million (making him the team's third-highest paid player) is a good value.

Jay Leach was just re-signed on Wednesday, July 7, reportedly for the league minimum of $500,000. He may have only played 35 games last season and only has three points in 63 games for his career. But he was solid defensively in limited action and having a veteran to add depth to a blueline that will have to rely on at least one player with fewer than 50 career games is vital.

The Sharks offered sufficient tenders to three other free agents. They were not included in this because their place on the roster is not official yet, but at the very least the compensation should a team sign them away would make losing them worthwhile, too...

Devin Setoguchi is becoming a more physical player and was quite effective before getting hurt in the playoffs; he can play a large role in the team for the foreseeable future. Derek Joslin is a capable reserve for the blueline who is affordable, and Steven Zalewski gives the team forward depth for little cost.

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