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Sharks GM Discusses Free Agency

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks
Less than 24 hours after making his first trade of the offseason, Sharks General Manager and Executive Vice President Doug Wilson announced a major shakeup in the Sharks lineup: goalie Evgeni Nabokov will not be returning to the team after Wilson declined to offer him a UFA contract.

“We’ve made a decision to go a different direction on the goaltender,” explained Wilson in a meeting with Bay Area media on Tuesday at Sharks Ice. “I had a conversation with him this morning because he deserves that respect and he’ll get nothing but great reviews on what he’s meant to this organization."

According to Wilson, Nabokov’s reaction to the news was “professional” and “the type of emotion that would be expected.” The Sharks General Manager delivered the news at Sharks Ice in a face-to-face meeting prior to sitting down with the media.

“He’s been a big part of our successes and I have a great respect for him as a player, as a man, as a teammate and a guy who gets involved with his community. We’ve got some very good, young goaltenders that are trending up and Nabby certainly deserves credit for their growth.”

Wilson explained that after examining trends in the National Hockey League over the last three or four years --- in particular, the dollars that are spent on goalies --- the organization has decided to put their faith in 24-year-old Thomas Greiss, 22-year-old Alex Stalock and possibly a veteran goalie from the free agency market.

“I can’t talk about other team’s players obviously for many reasons, but there is a pool of people that are out there that I think you’ll see available going forward.”

It's a prosperous market for GM's looking for goaltending. Unrestricted free agents include Marty Turco, Jose Theodore, former Shark Vesa Toskala, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis, Ray Emery, Martin Biron, Johan Hedberg, Patrick Lalime, Alex Auld, Stephen Valiquette, Stephen Valiquette and Antero Niittymaki (to name a few).

Wilson’s looking for not just “who”, but “what” has been winning in this League. And it’s not hard to see the trend. 25-year-old back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak (now with the St. Louis Blues) was paid $750,000 last season when he led the No. 8 seeded Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals. 26-year-old rookie Antti Niemi led the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup win in 49 years on $826,875 after stealing the starting spot from Cristobal Huet who earns $5,625,000. Former Shark Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton back-stopped Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup Finals with salaries of $925,000 and $600,000 respectively. It’s possible to steal the show with lesser known goalies.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, New Jersey Devil’s goaltender Marin Brodeur has made $5,200,000 for each of the past four seasons even though he hasn’t led his team past the first round since 2006. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo made $7,500,000 last year but couldn’t get his Canucks past the second round.

Apart from the goalie saga, the Sharks focus seemingly turns to Patrick Marleau, the other top unrestricted free agent whose contract expires June 30. Does Wilson’s decision to let Nabokov go mean that he’s making an effort to re-signing Marleau?

“I think under this system, it’s a concerted effort to re-sign all our guys that we want here going forward,” said Wilson. “The dedication of dollars is not to just a one-year number. What we’re all looking at is getting some terms. Some of these players --- Patty, Pavelski, etc. --- are not going to be one or two year deals. You’re looking at probably four to five year deals. ”

So although Marleau is a priority, he’s not the only priority. Wilson is also working on re-signing Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Manny Malhotra, Scott Nichol and Niclas Wallin who will be restricted free agents starting July 1.

Pavelski, the darling of the Sharks playoffs, scored 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) and three game-winning goals in the postseason after coming off a 51 point season (25 goals, 26 assists) where he played a steady presence on the Sharks second line. Since Pavelski is just coming into his prime, it can be argued that his contract negotiation ranks right up there with Marleau’s.

Prior to discussing his decision about Nabokov, Wilson commented on the deal that sent Brad Staubitz to Minnesota in exchange for a fifth round pick in the upcoming Draft.

“The Brad Staubitz deal was based on the pretty extensive depth on the right side,” explained Wilson. “We were adding players like Cam MacIntyre and Tommy Wingles into the mix in addition to the guys that we’ve had this past year. I always promised Brad that if he wasn’t going to get the opportunity to play, that I would provide that opportunity to him. He’s going to a good place and a coach that knows him very well.”

The Professional Hockey Writers Association announced today that the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals are finalists for the Dick Dillman Award, given annually to the team judged to be tops in media relations.

The Dillman Award honors the memory of the late Dick Dillman, who was a highly respected media relations guru for the now-defunct Minnesota North Stars.

The PHWA presents separate Dillman awards for the Eastern and Western Conferences. The Bruins, Capitals and Flyers are the Eastern candidates, while the Blackhawks, Coyotes and Sharks are finalists in the West. The winners will be announced at the NHL draft in Los Angeles on June 25.

The Sharks won the Dillman award in 2004, and have won the last three Dillman awards in the Western Conference. The Capitals have won the Eastern Conference Dillman for the past three seasons.

All members of the PHWA are eligible to vote for the Award, and voters are asked to consider multiple factors, including, fairness, cooperation, efficiency, accuracy and presentation of media notes, quality of media guide and willingness to help facilitate interviews.

"Dick Dillman was a quality PR executive and wonderful man," said PHWA President Kevin Allen. "He was a friend to our members for many years, and it's a privilege to honor people who do their job the way Dick did his."
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