Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson continued his quest to improve the team Sunday when he made his third big transaction of the summer. Continuing the trend of acquiring gritty forwards who have a solid resume as well as some postseason experience, Wilson traded defenseman Tom Preissing and prospect Josh Hennessy to Chicago for forward Mark Bell.
Bell, who had his most successful season of his young NHL career in 2005-06, posted career highs in goals (25) and points (48), while also playing in all 82 games for the third consecutive season. At the age of 25, Bell feels like his best days are ahead of him and he’s happy to have them in San Jose.
“It didn’t surprise me too much,” said Bell of the trade. “I kind of thought it was going to happen because I heard some things. I couldn’t be more excited to come and play in San Jose. I enjoyed my time in Chicago, but for the most part, I’m really looking forward to coming to San Jose and being a part of a winning team.”
Bell will likely accompany two NHL stars on the Sharks first line, playing left wing next to center Joe Thornton
and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound forward can play all three positions, which will undoubtedly help the Sharks.
“My first four years, I played the wing mostly, but last year I played pretty much all center,” said Bell. “It really doesn’t matter to me, left wing, right wing or center. Wherever the coach thinks I’m playing well and where I fit into the lineup is where I’ll play.”
After reaching the playoffs in just one of his five seasons in Chicago, Bell is excited to com to San Jose.
“The most gratifying thing is to look at their roster,” added Bell. “I remember playing against them and they were real tough to handle. Now I’m part of that group. It’s a young bunch, but most are coming into their prime and I’d like to think I am too. Hopefully we can build a winner. I’m hoping to take my game to the next level and I think I can do that in San Jose, especially with the guys up front.”
“It’s great that we could get a guy like Mark who’s coming into the prime of his career,” said Wilson. “I think a change will be good for him. It worked well for another guy that we picked up (Thornton).”
Wilson is no stranger to Bell, as the Sharks GM played for the same junior team as the newest Shark.
“He’s a player I’m very familiar with, being a part of the Ottawa 67s,” said Wilson. “He’s a big, tough, physical kid who I think can play in all situations which really fits in with our team. He’s already proved that he can score in this league and I think putting him in this environment with our team will be really good for him and good for us.”
As he has said numerous times, Wilson treats every day like it’s the trade deadline. If there’s someone out there that will improve the team, Wilson will look to make the acquisition.
“He’s a top-six forward,” said Wilson of Bell. “That’s the beauty of our group. We’ve got guys that can play center or wing. We’re trying to put it all together with guys that can get it done in the playoffs. Guys can play different roles and coaches can put them wherever they want to, but you just have to have those components to move forward in the playoffs.”
It goes without saying that the Sharks will miss the services of Preissing. The third-year defenseman had a standout season, scoring 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists). Hennessy also had a season as a first year pro, posting 63 points (24 goals, 39 assists).
“Tommy played really well for us,” said Wilson. “He came in and moved pucks and played some really good hockey for us. You have to give to get. Josh Hennessy played very well last season in his first year as a pro, too. This was a deal we were working on for quite awhile. They got good players, but we’re fortunate that we have players that can fill roles. We’ve got a lot of depth in our defensive end.”