SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -The Sharks acquired defenseman Craig Rivet from the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, finally adding a veteran defenseman for the playoff push.
San Jose traded defenseman Josh Gorges and its first-round draft pick this summer for Rivet and a fifth-round selection in 2008.
Rivet, who can be an unrestricted free agent after the season, has 11 years of NHL experience with the Canadiens, who drafted him in 1992. He has six goals, 10 assists and 57 penalty minutes in 54 games this season as a quietly dependable presence on Montreal's blue line - and that's exactly what the Sharks need heading into their final 20 games.
Rivet had never been traded at any level of hockey, so the concept still was sinking in while he settled his affairs in Montreal. Given his contractual uncertainty, Rivet wasn't surprised to get the call.
"I've been in Montreal a long time and have a lot of roots here," Rivet said. "But at the same time, I saw the writing on the wall, and was thinking a trade might be good. I'm just looking to go there and be a solid piece to their puzzle."
Immigration issues will keep Rivet out of the lineup for Monday night's home game against Anaheim, but the Sharks hope he'll be available Wednesday against Nashville.
Rivet has been out of the Canadiens lineup since Feb. 8, missing nine games while battling pneumonia and only returning to practice Sunday. He also butted heads with coach Guy Carbonneau earlier in the season, sitting down for one game as a healthy scratch.
But the Sharks desperately wanted an experienced, playoff-tested defenseman to help lead a defensive crew that has been criticized this season despite the club's strong record. San Jose gave up 29 goals on its just-completed eight-game road trip, including seven in a loss to Calgary on Saturday night.
"I know they have a great group up front, and they have outstanding goaltending," Rivet said. "I'm just going to be looking to solidify things on the blue line. I'm going there to play real solid, tight defense, and hopefully I can help them win some tight games."
The 32-year-old Rivet will be the Sharks' oldest player, even though he's barely middle-aged by most clubs' standards. San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has consistently resisted the temptation to ship out his young forwards and goalies to supplement his defense, insisting the Sharks' prospects deserved the right to play.
Gorges was among those youngsters who earned an opportunity, but the 23-year-old player had just one goal and three assists in 47 games while struggling in his own end. San Jose also shipped out young defenseman Tom Preissing last summer in a trade for Mark Bell.
"Craig was certainly in the top group (of players) that we wanted," Wilson said. "Craig is kind of a hybrid, and he really fits with our group, and he's the right age. ... He has scored five goals on the power play, and he's a right-handed shot, which is really important to us."
Wilson hopes Rivet will have the same impact as veteran forward Mike Grier, who has been the Sharks' best penalty-killer and a consistent offensive presence in his first year since signing as a free agent before the season.
The Sharks still will have a first-round pick this summer after acquiring New Jersey's top selection last year.