When Jim Vandermeer
and his agent were fielding calls from prospective National Hockey League teams, there was one critical factor that put San Jose at the top of the list.
“There were some options out there, but looking at San Jose’s track record the last couple of years, they’ve been a great team for a while,” Vandermeer said. “I feel this is the best chance at winning a Stanley Cup now.”
Vandermeer captained a Memorial Cup team in junior hockey and winning a championship drives him to play.
“Definitely for me it’s been a dream chasing the Stanley Cup,” Vandermeer said. “I’ve been quite a ways from it, only making the playoffs with a couple of different teams. I think it was a pretty big factor in the decision-making process. Look where this team is at right now and it looks like a pretty good opportunity.”
Having a franchise like the Sharks call was what Vandermeer was hoping for, but you never know until the phone rings.
“It was really hard to say. We just waited to see what options were out there,” Vandermeer said. “We had a couple of teams we thought might be (interested), but you don’t know until they make the call. They approached my agent and it went from there. This is the one he felt was the best one to approach me with.”
As for what role he’ll play with San Jose, he’ll add a tough element that blends more in line with what Douglas Murray
“I like to bring a physical style of play, the gritty type of D-man,” Vandermeer said. “I like to play good a defensive game, kill penalties, block shots, that sort of thing. I just bring my leadership and try to help everybody out.”
“Once we added Brent Burns
with his offensive capabilities, we were looking for a big physical stopper and a guy who had that big physical presence to compliment the rest of our group,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson said. “We really like how our defense looks now with all the different components. We wanted something specific and I think he fills that spot for us.”
Besides completing his checks, Vandermeer will stick up for any teammate as necessary.
“He’s very tough. People don’t like to play against him,” Wilson said. “He’s a great teammate. He captained a Memorial Cup-winning team. He plays very hard and he knows the Western Conference very well. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves and take care of his teammates and he has an intimidation factor that's a nice compliment to what Doug Murray does to our group.”
The only current Shark Vandermeer has played with is Antero Niittymaki in their Philadelphia days. But he doesn’t care about knowing people on the team, that will come. He’s more concerned with the team's make-up.
“I’ve played against the main core of guys there for a number of years and I like what I see,” Vandermeer said. “I look at it as a great opportunity to go forward with my career.”
Wilson will never close the door, but it likely means that Ian White and Kent Huskins won’t be back.
“We made those decisions a while ago when we got Burns,” Wilson said. “You can see where everybody falls into their role. Ian White is not coming back and Husky is looking to find a fit. You never say never in this business, but right now our defense is seven deep and we’ve got a couple of young guys that are certainly ready to compete (Nick Petrecki
, Mike Moore
, Matt Irwin and Sean Sullivan). We’re in a pretty good place on our blueline. “
As for the forwards, Wilson isn't shy about looking for another player, whether it’s in free agency or a trade, but he’s not going to rush the process.
“We’re certainly looking for the right piece and right type of player to compliment our forward group and we’ve had a lot of discussions in that area,” Wilson said. “(The free agent market) continues all the way through to September, but we’ve also been exploring the trade market and we will fill out the spots we want to fill out in due time.
"It’s got to be the right player and the right type of contract because we have a couple of our own contracts I want to take care of," Wilson added. " We’ve got a very good team, but there are pieces we’d like to add. We’re not finished building this team.”
Wilson acknowledged that Kyle Wellwood and the club have kept the door open with each other.
“We haven’t had any conversations with him in the last little while. Both sides have options.” Wilson said. “They can explore their options and we can explore out options. Every day we’re looking at ways to improve this hockey team.”
FREE AGENT FRENZY
By the end of Friday, 70 unrestricted free agents were signed -- just in one day!
“I’ve always used the term irrational exuberance of July 1 and I think it might have exceeded that today,” Wilson said. “That just tells you about supply and demand and it tells you why we try to be ahead of the curve.”