When Kyle McLaren signed a three-year extension in August, he took a road that many athletes these days don't often travel. Had he played his contract out, he would have been in an enviable and potentially lucrative position: that of unrestricted free agency according to the rules of the new CBA.
Already under contract for the 2005-06 season, the six-foot-four, 225-pound defenseman pledged his loyalty to San Jose by giving up his right to test the market. In turn, it provided a great opportunity for both the player and the team.
"We are extremely pleased to extend Kyle's contract for three additional seasons," said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. "Kyle is a big, strong, punishing defenseman who is trending up in his career and he will continue to be one of our anchors on the back end."
Back on the blueline, few if any NHL clubs can compare with the Sharks big three of McLaren, Canadian Olympian Scott Hannan and rangy Brad Stuart.
"I'm extremely pleased," said McLaren. "It is not something I needed right now, but something I wanted."
So what made McLaren decide to sign a deal locking him up for the next four seasons?
"I love the organization and the city and I felt like they wanted me too," said McLaren. "It gives my kids a chance to grow up here."
McLaren has played in San Jose for just a year and a half, but it didn't take long to decide this is where he wanted to stay.
"After my first year, it was a no-brainer," said McLaren. "The team welcomed me with both arms open. The organization has the same goal I do -- to win the Cup and they have proven that to us. From when I first got here until now, the organization has been nothing but top notch."
In 2003-04, McLaren, 28, posted 24 points (two goals, 22 assists) in 64 games with the Sharks, setting a career-high in assists and ranking him second on the team among defensemen. In 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games, he notched three assists and ate up more than 24 minutes of ice time per game.
McLaren enters his tenth NHL season and is one of the best open ice hitters in the game. Last season, the physical, rugged blueliner ranked fourth on the team in ice-time per game and has averaged more than 21 minutes per game in his past two seasons with San Jose.
The veteran from Humboldt, Saskatchewan may have started a very significant trend with the Sharks. Teammate Patrick Marleau opted for the same stability by inking a three-year deal just days after McLaren. He too sacrificed free agency years to stay with the only professional organization he's known. Wilson has made it clear that he is in discussions with several other prominent players on the reserve list for the same reason.
When players from a Pacific Division winner start signing early, it could only bring good things in the future.