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Sharks Lock Nabokov And Cheechoo In For The Long Term

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson continues to remove free agents from the potential pool for this summer.

Leading goal-scorer Jonathan Cheechoo and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov have agreed to new long term contracts, following in the footsteps of Patrick Marleau and Kyle McLaren, who also sacrificed potential free agent years to stay in San Jose.

Wilson inked Cheechoo to a five-year deal and Nabokov to a four-year stint, ensuring both players can be in Teal through the end of the decade.

“Nabby is one of the top goaltenders in the league and Cheech continues to improve every year as one of the game’s best goal scorers,” General Manager Doug Wilson said. “We are very happy to get them signed long term.”

Cheechoo, 25, has appeared in 200** NHL games posting 116 points (69-47=116). Among all players that have entered the NHL since the 2002-03 season, his 69 career goals trail only Columbus’ Rick Nash (74). In addition, his 17 game-winning goals pace all players that have entered the league since that time.

“I think they’ve shown a lot of confidence in me and I’m confident in the team,” said Cheechoo. “It’s pretty exciting. When they went out and got Joe Thornton, it shows they want to win. With Doug (Wilson), we have a good management team and that’s why I agreed to a five-year deal. I just want to play and we have a great young team. They gave me an opportunity and I hope to pay them back.”

Cheechoo leads the Sharks and is eighth in the NHL in goals (32) this season. His 16 power play goals are currently tied for third in the league and pace all Sharks. He ranks third on the team with 53 points (32-21=53) and recently tied a Sharks franchise record that was initially set in 1992 by Rob Gaudreau by posting at least one point in 12 consecutive games from Dec. 26 – Jan. 24. Leading the NHL in goals (13-4=17) during the month of December, as well as posting his first two career hat tricks, Cheechoo was named the Seagate Technology “Sharks Player of the Month,” the second time in his career that he earned the honor.

“A cynic might say that he’s profiting from playing with Joe Thornton, and there’s some truth to that,” Coach Ron Wilson said. “But he did score 28 goals without a pass from Joe Thornton two years ago and he was basically playing on a grind line, a third line. He did a lot of the work himself.

In 2003-04, Cheechoo broke through in his second NHL season, tying for the team lead in goals and finishing third in points (28-19=47) while connecting on nine game-winning goals, which tied for the fourth highest total in the NHL. Gaining his first taste of playoff experience, he appeared in 17 games and posted 10 points (4-6=10). Named Seagate Technology “Sharks Player of the Month” for March, he posted four assists as a member of the Western Conference Team at the NHL YoungStars Game.

As a rookie during the 2002-03 season, he appeared in 66 games and posted 16 points (9-7=16). Cheechoo, the first member of the Moose Cree Nation to sign an NHL contract, appeared in his first career game on October 12 against Detroit and posted his first career goal against Nashville on October 24.

The six-foot-one, 190-pound native of Moose Factory, Ontario was originally drafted by San Jose in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft (2nd round, 29th overall).

Nabokov, 30, owns nearly every major franchise goaltending record including games played (296), minutes (16,855), wins (135), shutouts (27) and single-season shutouts (9). In his sixth season with San Jose, Nabokov will make his International Ice Hockey Federation debut as a member of the Russian National Team at this month’s Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

“I’m glad to put it behind me,” said Nabokov. “I told Doug and Greg (Jamison) I wanted to be here and I think we have a great chance to win. We have a great team and it will just take some extra hard word to get where we want to be. We will get there and I want to be part of it.”

This season, Nabokov has posted a 14-15-6 record with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .892 save percentage. He earned his first shutout of the season on Jan. 12 against Ottawa, making 40 saves.

In 2003-04, Nabokov helped the Sharks to the most prolific season in franchise history by posting his third 30-win season (31-19-8) and a franchise-record nine shutouts. The netminder earned the NHL Defensive Player of the Month Award for February, posting an 8-2-0 record, 1.75 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and three shutouts during the month. His 1-0 victory against St. Louis on February 29 made him just the 62nd player in NHL history to register 25 career shutouts. During the playoffs when he helped lead the team to its first-ever berth in the Western Conference Finals, Nabokov was equally impressive in posting a 1.71 goals-against average in 17 games, tied for second-best in the league, along with three shutouts.

In 2000-01, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player selected as the most proficient first-year player in the NHL, posting a 32-21-7 record, 2.19 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Nabokov posted a career-best 37 wins in 2001-02, a 2.19 goals-against average in 2000-01 and .921 save percentage in 2003-04.

The six-foot, 205-pound goaltender from Kamengorsk, Kazakhstan was originally selected by San Jose in the ninth round (219th overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

**All statistics as of Feb. 7**
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