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Wilson focused on winning now

by Dan Rosen

San Jose GM, Doug Wilson, acquired Buffalo's Brian Campbell during yesterday's trade deadline.
General managers insist that in order to build a successful program you must keep an eye on the future, especially at the trade deadline.

That is, of course, until one of the most coveted players becomes available to you.

As much as San Jose GM Doug Wilson wants to make sure his Sharks are built for the long-haul, he couldn’t resist the temptation of picking up elite puck-moving defenseman Brian Campbell prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline.

So what if Wilson had to give up a pair of future assets in 22-year-old power forward Steve Bernier and a first-round pick in the 2008 draft to land Campbell, a pending unrestricted free agent who could wind up playing in a different city next season?

In Campbell, the Sharks gobbled up a player who can help them right now, and until they either lift the Stanley Cup in June or get eliminated in the Western Conference playoffs, that’s all that matters to Wilson.

Signing Campbell is second to winning right now.

“Our only focus right now is to get the player in here, get him integrated with our team, and win hockey games,” Wilson said during a conference call late Tuesday afternoon. “We always say we have an eye on the present and an eye on the future. Right now we’re focusing on the present.”

It helps that Wilson and the Sharks scouting staff has done a good enough job in stock piling young, talented forwards. Thanks to the continued development of Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell, Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe, Wilson said a player like Bernier became expendable despite his obvious upside.

“We’re very fortunate our scouting staff replenishes us with a lot of young forwards,” Wilson said. “We gave a good hockey player in Bernier, but we were able to discuss and make trades from a position of strength. The credit for that goes to our staff.”

In return, Wilson filled the one position that has dogged the Sharks all season. They finally have a defenseman who gets the puck through the neutral zone in a flash to start an offensive play in the attacking zone.

Every contending team needs someone like that, and the Sharks found their guy.

“We think we needed that component and we have known that for a while,” Wilson said. “We have been open and honest with all the teams we’ve talked to that this is what we’re looking for and we would trade full value. We did that. With what you’re trying to accomplish it makes it easier for people to match to make these deals come together.

“We explored in every area because I’m sure there were a lot of pursuers for this one. We had a lot of conversations, probably as many as we ever have had,” Wilson later added. “You never know when something comes out of left field that floats your boat, but this was our main focus.”

Also on Wilson’s agenda Tuesday was to pick up a veteran goalie to serve as No. 2 behind Evgeni Nabokov. He was able to nail that down by signing Brian Boucher, who has been in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms all season.

Nabokov, who is having an MVP-caliber season, has started 60 of the Sharks' 62 games this season mainly because San Jose hasn’t trusted anyone to be a reliable backup. Dimitri Patzold, 25, and Thomas Greiss, 22, have each appeared in three games.

Boucher, 31, has played parts of seven NHL seasons with five different organizations. He is 77-96-30 with a 2.79 goals-against average in the regular season and 11-8 with a 2.07 GAA and a .916 save percentage in 21 playoff games.

“We’re very pleased with our goaltending and this is something we knew we were going to do at some point it was just a matter of what time was the right,” Wilson said. “You always want your own players to play, too. When you add a player at this time of the year at least they played some games and have been around the guys in practice. Now they can go down to (Sharks AHL affiliate) Worcester and play some games there. They don’t get better from sitting.”

Wilson said the seeds for the Campbell to San Jose trade were planted even before the general managers had their meetings last week at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Fla. But he said his discussions with Sabres GM Darcy Regier escalated during those three days in South Florida.

At the time, Regier was still trying to sign Campbell to a long-term contract, but the two sides could not agree, which all but forced Regier to trade Campbell to avoid the risk of losing him on July 1 when the free agency frenzy begins.

“Darcy knew where we stood and that we had great interest in this player,” Wilson said. “It advanced quickly at the GM meetings, but he still had contract talks to go through and I had to wait until they done through that phase. It really was just the last few days, and especially (Monday) night.

“Darcy has known for quite a while what we were looking for. I’m sure it didn’t shock him how serious we were.”

I’m not sure we view anybody as a rental player. We view players as people that have an opportunity to make our team better. - Doug Wilson

Wilson insisted that Campbell’s uncertain future as a pending unrestricted free agent had no bearing on his thought process throughout his pursuit of the two-time All-Star defenseman. Campbell hinted Tuesday that he’ll likely test the free-agent waters.

Wilson, though, refused to call Campbell a rental player.

“I’m not sure we view anybody as a rental player. We view players as people that have an opportunity to make our team better,” Wilson said. “Our No. 1 priority is to make this place be a place players want to play, so when a player gets here you have to make it a place players can win. That’s really the basic foundation of this system. If players want to be here and all the criteria they are looking for is answered it’s a lot easier to get them here and convince them to stay.”

For now, Wilson just hopes Campbell can help the Sharks win.

The rest is a summer project.

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