Raffi Torres' brief time with the San Jose Sharks last season after being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes in many ways encapsulated what the previous several seasons have been like for the energetic, hard-hitting forward.
Torres became extremely popular in the Sharks' dressing room in short order and was a major factor in their sweep of the Northwest Division-winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Then he was suspended for the final six games of their seven-game loss to the rival Los Angeles Kings in the second round following an illegal hit on forward Jarret Stoll in the series opener.
Still, after weighing the risks against the rewards, the Sharks elected Thursday to sign the 31-year-old left wing to a new three-year contract.
"Every player comes with some level of risk. We're obviously very comfortable with this," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said during a conference call announcing the signing. "Raffi, in the last year -- and credit goes to [coaches] Dave Tippett in Phoenix and Todd [McLellan] here -- has transformed and evolved his game, and become a very effective player."
VOTE ON THE BEST RAFFI TORRES HIGHLIGHT OF 2012-13
Torres had six points in 11 regular-season games after the Sharks acquired him from the Phoenix Coyotes the day of the NHL Trade Deadline, and then added the overtime goal in Game 2 against the Canucks that helped spur San Jose to a quick dispatching of Vancouver.
Opinions still differ on the hit Torres delivered to Stoll in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals -- at the time, he received a two-minute minor for charging. Stoll ended up missing the remainder of the series before coming back for the conference final. Torres, who served a 21-game suspension levied during the 2012 postseason for his illegal hit on Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, saw his season end in street clothes for the second consecutive year.
Torres said Thursday that although he continues to believe there wasn't anything dirty about the hit on Stoll, he remains mindful about toeing the line while on the ice.
"At end of the day, I'm always going to be working on that until the day I'm done playing, thinking the game a little more and trying not to put myself in those vulnerable positions with borderline hits," he said.
Torres, a first-round pick by the New York Islanders in the 2000 NHL Draft, has played for five teams in five seasons since leaving the Edmonton Oilers following the 2007-08 season, making a long-term contract all the more important.
"It's great, just a big sigh of relief for myself and family," he said. "For the short time we were [in San Jose] we really enjoyed it and knew right away -- just my wife, the mood I was in coming back from rink, it's a great organization and when we got the news we were thrilled."
Torres scored 19 goals three seasons ago for the Columbus Blue Jackets and finished with 29 and 26 points the following two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and Coyotes, respectively. More than any offensive numbers, though, Wilson liked the depth Torres provided to the Sharks' top three lines and the chemistry he developed with his teammates on and off the ice.
"He has a great reputation as a teammate," Wilson said, noting the Sharks had done their homework in that respect prior to trading for Torres. "He came in, it was very quickly, guys said, 'We like having him on our side.'
"He works hard, he's a strong, fit guy. When he was playing with [Joe] Pavelski and [Tommy] Wingels or [Martin] Havlat, the impact it had on team -- he added ingredients of toughness and speed, but also more scoring. He's a piece that fits with our style of play and what the coaching staff needs going forward."
Author: Brian Hunter | NHL.com Staff Writer