Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson has once again struck early when it comes to contracts, locking up top netminder Evgeni Nabokov and top goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo for four and five years respectively.
Cheechoo, 25, bypassed some unrestricted free agency time to stay with his only team.
“I think they’ve shown a lot of confidence in me and I’m confident in the team,” said Cheechoo. “It’s pretty exciting. When they went out and got Joe Thornton
, it showed they wanted to win.”
“He is benefiting from playing with Joe, but he did score 28 goals playing on a grinding third line,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “He’s going to be a 35-40 goals scorer and if the rules keep being enforced, there isn’t going to be a dropoff. He’s not afraid to go where you get hit hard.”
The hard-nosed right winger likes what Doug Wilson and his hockey department are putting together.
“With Doug, we have a good management team and that’s why I agreed to a five-year deal,” said Cheechoo. “I just want to play and we have a great young team. They gave me an opportunity and I hope to pay them back.”
And the management team is confident in both players who signed extensions.
“We’re very pleased that both players made the commitment to stay here in San Jose and that they want to be here,” said Doug Wilson. “Nabby is one of the top goaltenders in the League and Cheech continues to improve every year as one of the game’s best goal scorers. We are very happy to get them signed long term.”
Cheechoo says that hockey’s best fans have played a role in his signing as well.
“The fans have embraced me here,” said Cheechoo.
Cheechoo stayed out of negotiations and signed on the dotted line when it was put in front of him.
“I let my agent take care of that,” said Cheechoo. “I just want to play hockey.”
The Moose Factory, Ontario native is glad he won’t have to worry about his contract status this summer.
“Now I can just concentrate on hockey for the next five years,” said Cheechoo.
Cheechoo didn’t worry about any no-trade clauses.
“I figure if they didn’t want me, then I wouldn’t want to stay where I wasn’t wanted,” laughed Cheechoo.
NABOKOV HAPPY AS WELL
Unlike Cheechoo, Nabokov would have been an unrestricted free agent this year and there would have been plenty of offers. Like Cheechoo though, Nabokov likes the Sharks potential and chose to stay put.
“I’m glad to put it behind me,” said the Russian Olympic netminder. “I told Doug and Greg (Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison) I wanted to be here and I think we have a great chance to win. We have a great team and it will just take some extra hard work to get where we want to be. We will get there and I want to be part of it.”
In the upcoming Olympics, Nabokov will be teammates with former Sharks forward Alexander Korolyuk.
“I’m going to tell him to get back over here,” said Nabokov.
Rookie center Marcel Goc took a seat in the press box for Monday’s contest.
“He’s just struggling,” said Ron Wilson. “He hasn’t scored in 28 games and has three assists and a minus rating. Sometimes young players battle that and you just let them watch for a night and see it’s not as hard as he thinks.”
Wilson wishes he had made the move earlier.
“I probably should have done it sooner rather than wait until he was squeezing the stick,” said Wilson. “He was down on himself and beating himself up. That happens when you hold yourself accountable.”
Still, don’t expect Goc to be out long.
“He’ll probably play tomorrow,” said Wilson.
If Goc returns to the lineup, Wilson will likely go back to dressing just six blueliners.
Who plays on the backend would be up for debate as Doug Murray isn’t quite ready to return from his sore shoulder.
“Doug is probably a few days away from skating, so it is hard to envision him in the lineup before the break,” said Wilson.
Even if Wilson drops one defenseman from the lineup, it does not mean that rookie Matt Carkner will be the odd man out after his debut.
“Matt gives us a physical presence,” said Wilson. “He was nervous, but he got through the game.”