After spending nearly everyday together for the past nine months, the Sharks packed up their lockers on Wednesday and gave their final interviews of the season.
It’s a bittersweet feeling. The players get three months of uninterrupted time with their loved ones, but depart from their teammates without knowing who will return to the locker room in September.
“It’s always hard,” said center Joe Pavelski
who will be a restricted free agent this summer. “We work hard all year long, have a good time and spend a lot of time on the road with the guys. You really get to know them. During the playoffs it was fun and it’s always tough to see guys go.”
“It’s tough because you spend everyday together and you are like a family,” said center Joe Thornton
who has one year remaining on the three-year contact extension he signed in July, 2007. “It’s kind of sad but you wait for September. The days go by a little longer, but hopefully the summer will go by quick and we’ll be back at it in early September.”
Three players with unforeseen futures include unrestricted free agents Patrick Marleau
, Evgeni Nabokov and Rob Blake. Many questions arose about their plans for the summer.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t thought about it much,” said Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov whose four-year contract extension is up in July. “I’ll sit down with my family and see what’s going on.”
When pressed about how he will prepare for the offseason without knowing whether he’ll be back with the organization, the Sharks goaltender responded: “That why I just said I don’t plan anything. I don’t know.”
At 40 years old, Captain Rob Blake has played 21 seasons in the NHL and has achieved several accolades including the Norris Trophy in 1997-98, the Stanley Cup in 2001 and a gold medal with the Canadian hockey team in 2002. His one-year contract extension expires in July, but he is unsure about the next step in his career.
“It will take some time,” said Blake about making a decision for next season. “I’m not going to rush into it by any means. You’ll hear something this summer.”
If it was up to defenseman Dan Boyle
, Blake would be back. When asked whether he thinks Blake can play another year, Boyle answered, “One-hundred percent. I’m not sure where he’s at, but he’s a calming influence out there and he’s a great leader. He can play. At the end of the day you have to be able to play and he can. He was effective out there during the playoffs. Hopefully we’ll see him back.”
Marleau’s contract will also expire in July, allowing him to negotiate and sign a contract with any NHL team. His summer plans include trips with his wife and children.
“We’ll probably take the kids to Disneyland and we’ll get away somewhere,” said Marleau. “We like going to Hawaii.”
Sharks center Scott Nichol has a different plan for his summer. Instead of a getaway, the 35-year-old takes his family back to their home in Rochester, New York. It’s the permanent residence that their kids know as “home”.
“That’s kind of our home base,” explained Nichol. “If everything falls apart, the kids know they can open that door and their beds are made. We like it there. It’s a nice place to raise a family.
“It’s funny because our kids are five and six so they’re like, ‘Sorry Dad you didn’t win the Stanley Cup. When are we going back to New York?’” continued Nichol. “They know that’s home. That’s their security blanket and their vacation.”
Nichol will be also be an unrestricted free agent this summer after signing a one-year contact with the Sharks in July, 2009. The five-foot-nine fourth liner made a great impact on the team this season, producing 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) --- the highest of his ten-year NHL career.
“It was a great ride,” said Nichol. “It was a joy to come to the rink. It was the coaching staff and the players. You can tell in this room how close we are just by how we battled so hard all year long. It’s sad that we didn’t get there, but all the guys gave it their all.”
Boyle will be splitting his summer between Canada and Florida. The 33-year-old and his wife are planning on spending a month with her family and then a month with his prior to the arrival of their second child.
“I’ve got the basic plans,” Boyle explained about his summer. “We’re going to do June in Florida, July in Ottawa and back here for August because my wife is six months pregnant.”
The most surprising answer about summer plans came from Thornton, who has traveled to Thailand, Switzerland and Egypt on previous vacations. According to “Big Joe” he has nothing planned.
“Nothing yet,” said Thornton.
We’ll follow up with that one in September.