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Sharks add physicality with Torres, depth with Hannan

by Eric Gilmore /

SAN JOSE -- When the San Jose Sharks traded forward Ryane Clowe to the New York Rangers on Tuesday, the No. 1 question was obvious: How were the Sharks going to handle the stretch run without their most physical and intimidating player?

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson answered that question Wednesday with a deadline deal with the Phoenix Coyotes for forward Raffi Torres, a player known most for delivering devastating hits and playing with an infamous edge, but one who also has some skill.

"That’s exactly what you want," Wilson said. "You hate playing against him, you want him on your side. He can skate. People know when he’s on the ice. But he can play too. With Ryane moving on to New York, having that physical presence is very important. He’s a guy we are all very familiar with. He can play the game and he can get in there. The speed to his game is a big part of it. You want your physical presence to have speed."

The Sharks, who play the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night at HP Pavilion, gave up a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft for Torres. They made anther deadline trade with the Nashville Predators for former Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan, adding experienced depth on the blue line and helping fill the void created when they traded Douglas Murray to the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 25. The deal with Nashville cost San Jose a seventh-round pick in 2013 that would become a sixth-rounder if Hannan plays one game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.

Torres' acquisition was the headliner for San Jose on Wednesday. In 107 games for Phoenix, he scored 20 goals and had 38 points to go with 96 penalty minutes. He also was suspended 21 games for his hit on the Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa in the playoffs last season.

"My game was a little bit reckless," Torres said in a conference call. "My problem is I get a little too caught up in the moment and I feel like I need to go out there and throw that big hit. My problem was that it was almost kind of deteriorating my overall game.

"I’m at a point now where I’m not looking for the big hit. I’m trying to work on stick on puck, and trying to take away the puck instead of taking the body. Mind you that I will not back down from trying to run someone over to change momentum. I think I just do it a little bit more cautiously now."

While Wilson acknowledged that Torres isn't as reckless as he used to be on the ice, he said he's still an intimidating presence and someone who will help fill Clowe's void, especially if the surging Sharks reach the postseason.

"You get in the playoffs, you have to have people who make people pay the price," Wilson said. "With Ryane leaving, it certainly was a hole we needed to fill."

Torres, 31, said he was surprised to be traded to a Pacific Division rival, but was excited by the news.

"They have a great team there," said Torres, who has 486 career penalty minutes in 619 games. "They obviously have been playing well. I’m just going to go out there and play hard, and anything I can do to help I’ll go out there. I got that fire back under my butt. I’m looking forward to coming out and trying to help them out.

"I love playing in San Jose. It’s an electric building, it’s loud, it’s something that can help my game. I get energy off the crowd. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it."

Hannan has been sidelined by a neck injury, but Wilson said he expects him to be ready to play within a week. His acquisition makes it likely the Sharks can keep Brent Burns as a top-line forward for the rest of the season and not have to use him as a defenseman. They switched Burns from the blue line to right wing on March 12 at the St. Louis Blues, and he scored five goals and racked up 10 points in nine games up front.

Burns was forced to fill in for injured defenseman Jason Demers on March 30 against Phoenix. Since then, the Sharks called up defenseman Matt Tennyson from Worcester of the American Hockey League and traded for Hannan.

"I think [Burns] is up front for the rest of the year," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who centers the top line.

Hannan played his first eight NHL seasons for the Sharks, starting in 1998-99. Defenseman Brad Stuart, who returned to the Sharks this season in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings, played five-plus seasons with Hannan in San Jose.

"Good veteran," Stuart said of Hannan. "A guy that can step in and play an important role for us. If you’re going to make a run, you have to have an abundance of defensemen who can play and have experience in those types of situations. He does. It’s a good addition."

By dealing Clowe, Murray and center Michal Handzus, Wilson traded three veterans who were in the final year of their contracts and headed for unrestricted free agency. He stockpiled draft choices in each of those deals with an eye toward the future.

The Sharks, though, have the League's longest current winning streak of five games, and Wilson said that helped convince him to add some pieces for a playoff run.

"This group earned that equity by their performance," Wilson said. "They earned the ability and the need to add these type of guys who are playoff-type guys and gives you the depth that you need. It’s not just winning games, it’s playing the right way. We’ve played the right way the first seven games of the year and went through a long streak of not playing the right way. But the coaching staff and players are playing a really good 60-minute game, and when they play that way I think we can play with anybody."

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