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Sharks GM: Time has come to start rebuilding

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- What San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson used to describe as a "reset-refresh" for his team has turned into an all-out rebuilding project, and he hammered home that point Tuesday in a session with the media before the upcoming NHL Draft.

Wilson announced that the Sharks have re-signed 26-year-old goaltender Alex Stalock to a two-year contract, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent in a move that shows San Jose is committed to turning the team over to its younger players. Stalock will be given a chance to supplant Antti Niemi, 30, as the Sharks' No. 1 goaltender.

The Sharks have ruled out trading any of their young talent or high draft picks. Wilson has spread that message to his veterans, including forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, to San Jose's fans and to general managers throughout the NHL.

"I've had a lot of calls," Wilson said. "A lot of people at the GM meetings, they know where we're going. We now become a tomorrow team. So when you spell that out, it does create a response. Now a tomorrow team, is it one year, two years? Time will tell on how our young players handle the responsibility given to them but also making sure we don't give it to them too soon."

The Sharks also announced Tuesday they have re-signed fourth-line forward Mike Brown, who, like Stalock, could have become a free agent July 1, to a two-year contract, keeping a gritty, 28-year-old player who fits Wilson's plans to build a tougher, faster team.

Wilson hasn't backed off on his decision to cut ties with veteran forward Marty Havlat, 33, who has one year remaining on his contract. He said he's still dealing with teams in an attempt to trade Havlat. If the Sharks can't work out a trade, they can use a compliance buyout.

The Sharks have seven picks in the NHL Draft on June 27-28 in Philadelphia, including the No. 20 pick and three of the top 53 selections. They have nine picks at the 2015 draft, a number that Wilson could well increase.

"We have 16 picks for a reason," Wilson said. "We didn't trade our first-round pick last year, we're not trading it this year and we're not trading it next year and probably the year after. That's the phase we're in."

After the Sharks lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, Wilson decided they needed to take a step back in order to move two steps forward. The Sharks haven't missed the playoffs since the 2002-03 season, but Wilson has been bracing San Jose's fan base for that possibility.

"It's the rebuild, and 'the rebuild' is a term that we haven't used a lot recently or probably in a long time," Wilson said. "Historically, every team in the League that has had success has probably gone through that phase. We did start it a year ago. We used that terminology, 'reset-refresh.' It really was a form of rebuild. We know that we haven't accomplished what we want to accomplish.

"We feel that we've got a good core of young players, almost all of them homegrown, drafted by us or have come up through the system that we feel comfortable to lead the way on that. But that's what we have to do, and you can't commit to it and not do it. We were not going to trade a [Tomas] Hertl or a Mirco [Mueller] or a [Matt] Nieto or a first-round pick or second-round picks in this season because we wanted to commit to it. That's the phase we're in. There's no avoiding it. That's what we need to do."

The Sharks signed Thornton and Marleau during the season each to a three-year contract that includes a no-movement clause.

"I've had players with specific clauses before," Wilson said. "My conversations with those two guys will stay between me and them, but I also have other [veterans]. ... It's all the veteran guys. If a guy's 31 or 32 or 33, and we're going to rebuild, does it fit for them? It might not. ... The rebuild is going to take place regardless. We're committed to it and whatever things we need to do to get to that point. I'll just say people will be treated the way they have been historically: with respect and honesty."

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