The Sharks locked up another core player for the long haul Friday when they inked Milan Michalek to a six-year deal worth $26 million. The length of the contract is the longest in franchise history, matching the term previously provided to Owen Nolan.
Michalek surrendered a few years of unrestricted free agency, but that was not a concern for the speedy forward who can play anywhere up front.
“It was a few years (of unrestricted free agency), but I’m really happy in San Jose,” said Michalek. “The organization is great. I’m glad they wanted me for so long because I wanted that too.”
“We gave long-term deals to Cheechoo and others,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “It’s a player we know and he knows us. We have a pretty good read on where he is going as a player.”
Wilson is not one to attach numbers to player goals, but is very bullish on Michalek.
“We think he has great upside and will be a dominant player,” said Wilson. “This is the type of player other players want to play with. He may be our best defensive forward next to Mike Grier. He is a player we want others to emulate.”
As comfortable as he is with the front office and city of San Jose, the on-ice potential played a large role in Michalek’s signing.
“We’re going to be very good for a long time and win lot of Cups,” said Michalek.
Michalek is the type of player that under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, can become an unrestricted free agent at a very early age, forcing teams to make tough decisions at an earlier development stage than under the old agreement.
“You have to make decisions much quicker than in the past,” said Wilson. “That is an element of the CBA.”
Michalek recently completed his second full NHL season, posting career-highs in points (66 – fourth on team), goals (26 – third on team) and assists (40 – third on team) in 78 games. In addition, his +17 was second on the team, behind Joe Thornton
, and he was tied for fourth in the NHL in game-winning goals (9).
Michalek placed fifth in scoring among all NHL second-year players and scored the most points by any Sharks second-year player in franchise history. Among all Czech players in the League, he was second in power play goals (11), fourth in goals and fifth in points.
“Milan defines what a multi-dimensional player should be,” said Wilson. “He has size, speed, strength, skill and the drive to not only play, but excel in both ends of the ice. He has gained so much experience in the last few years, both as a player and as a person. We are lucky to have him be a core part of our organization going forward.”
Wilson journeyed to Montreal where Michalek is training to meet with agent Don Walsh and talk to his winger face-to-face during the process.
“I met with Doug and it was nice that he came out to talk,” said Michalek.
For several seasons now, Michalek has spent the month prior to training camp in Montreal working out with trainer Paul Gagne.
“My brother, Marty Havlet and a couple of more guys,” said Michalek. “I’m here for four weeks. We train hard from 3-6:30, first in the gym and then on the ice until 6:30.”
Last fall, Michalek purchased a San Jose home and, for the first time in his California hockey career, he will be arriving in San Jose knowing he won’t be moving during the training camp to another residence in Silicon Valley.
“We’re coming in the ninth,” said Michalek. “It’s going to be nice not being in a hotel or apartment.”
In 2005-06, Michalek notched 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 81 games, earning PlayStation “Sharks Rookie of the Year” honors.
The Czech Republic native played in only two games for the Sharks in 2003-04, scoring a goal in his first NHL game before suffering a knee injury in his second game. He then re-injured the knee during a rehabilitation stint in the American Hockey League with the Cleveland Barons on Feb. 7, 2004, ending his season.
Michalek was originally selected by the Sharks in the first round (6th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.MARLEAU TALKS ONGOING
Wilson is still hoping to lock up Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
to an extension. Marleau has one more year left on his current contract.
“We’ve had several talks with him and Don Baizley and we’ll keep moving forward,” said Wilson.