DALLAS -- San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is looking at all of the possibilities.
When the Sharks put defenseman Paul Martin on unconditional waivers Friday, they lost a veteran who Wilson said was a mentor for the past three seasons. But the move allowed the Sharks to gain valuable space under the NHL salary cap that gives them the flexibility to pursue a top free agent.
San Jose was reported to be one of the five teams center John Tavares will meet with as he considers possibly leaving the New York Islanders as a free agent July 1.
"You want to put yourself in a position to add some things to your team," Wilson said after the first round of the NHL Draft on Friday. "We like our team a lot as it sits now. But be it cap space or assets we have, our history is that we've made some trades. There's the (unrestricted free agent) market too. There's a myriad of ways we can add players to our team. We're in a good place right now, and teams will call us with opportunities."
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Wilson isn't afraid of taking risks. He did it when the Sharks selected defenseman Ryan Merkley of Guelph of the Ontario Hockey League at No. 21 on Friday. Merkley is a skilled player who was third among OHL defensemen with 67 points (13 goals, 54 assists) last season, but there have been questions about his attitude and maturity. Wilson said he's had a lot of one-on-one talks with Merkley and he's confident the 17-year-old can find his way.
"He's a unique kid," Wilson said. "You can say risk-reward, but he's just got a high-end skill set and you see his frustration come out on occasion. But that's because he's trying to win and trying to make big plays all the time.
"This kid's a competitor. He's the type that, if the game is on the line, he wants the puck. That's not all bad. He would take ownership of things he would change, and he looked us right in the eye every time we met with him. When he came on the stage, you could see the joy and the opportunity and he knows we're going to believe in him. But we're going to be hard on him too."
Video: Sharks draft D Ryan Merkley No. 21
Merkley said he's working on his attitude.
"I know what I've done wrong, I know my bad habits, I know the areas I want to work on if I want to get to the next level," he said. "I have to show everybody what I can do and complete my all-around game. I'm going to be walking into a locker room with a bunch of men and dads. I can't be acting like that, for sure."
The Sharks will see how Merkley can help them in another year or so. In the meantime, they'll see how salary cap space can help them now. They reportedly met with forward Ilya Kovalchuk befoe he signed with the Los Angeles Kings, and center Joe Thornton can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"We're in that window that we've talked about," Wilson said. "We feel good about ourselves. We have flexibility to add when the right player comes along and we're looking forward to those moments."