The former Norris Trophy winner made two large acquisitions before the Feb. 27 trade deadline, addressing two areas on the ice that he felt needed a boost, solidifying the Sharks line-up in their drive to capture the Stanley Cup.
And it was not an easy process.
As superstar players such as Peter Forsberg, Keith Tkachuk and Ryan Smyth were being acquired around the NHL at steep prices, Wilson and his staff had to look at improving their team, but had to do it without overspending or trading away any of their key, young rostered players or budding prospects.
On Feb. 25, two days before the NHL trade deadline day, the Sharks sent Josh Gorges and their first round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft to Montreal for veteran defenseman Craig Rivet and fifth round draft selection in 2008.
Despite boasting a team defense that had allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the NHL, Wilson acquired Rivet, who will serve along with Kyle McLaren and Scott Hannan to anchor a talented group of blueliners. In addition, Rivet gives the Sharks a steady defenseman who is strong in his own end and who is known as a character guy in the locker room.
“We were looking for a Mike Grier-type player to play on our back end,” said Wilson. “Mike Grier has had a big impact on our team up front. We think Craig will do the same thing. He’s a hard-nosed player that can move pucks and is very well detailed.”
Rivet, a 12-year NHL veteran had played his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens, but looks forward to the chance to play with a team that has a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.
“I’m just looking to be a piece of the puzzle and solidify things on the blue line,” said Rivet. “I am extremely excited to be part of this team.”
It didn’t take long for Rivet to have an impact in the Sharks lineup. He scored his first goal as a Shark in his first game with his new team on March 1 at Anaheim.
In addition, Rivet, who has been logging heavy minutes since his arrival, gives the Sharks a right-handed shot from the point on the power play.
But Wilson was not done dealing.
Just several hours prior to the deadline, Wilson swung a huge deal that TSN and NBC television analyst Pierre McGuire called “a home run” by acquiring sniper Bill Guerin from the St. Louis Blues.
Guerin did not come cheaply as the Sharks sent Ville Nieminen, college prospect Jay Barriball and the 2007 first round pick that was acquired in September from New Jersey in the Vladamir Malakhov trade.
But Guerin, who is no stranger to hoisting the Stanley Cup (New Jersey, 1995), gives the Sharks another veteran in the locker room who knows what it takes to win and who can be a productive player on the ice.
“Billy’s a power forward,” said Sharks Coach Ron Wilson. “He can go stand in front of the net. He’s got great hands. He has an edge about him. There’s a meanness that he has that we can certainly use.”
Before his arrival in San Jose, Guerin was enjoying a renaissance season with the Blues, leading the team in points (47), goals (28), power play goals (7), game winning goals (6) and shots (189). He notched his seventh career hat trick on Feb. 13 against the Sharks.
Upon his arrival in San Jose, he jokingly called that game his “audition.”
The 14-year veteran is excited for his chance to help this young and talented Sharks team advance in the playoffs.
“I just have to play my game, play the way they expect me to and be a good addition to the locker room,” Guerin said. “I can help make this team take some strides.”
Rogers Sportsnet analyst Keith Primeau added: “Bringing in a guy like Bill Guerin is a tremendous jolt in the arm and a great acquisition.”
“The goal is to compete to win the Stanley Cup, and you’re going to have to go deep into your lineup,” Doug Wilson said. “I think we have as much depth as anybody in this league. That was a consideration. We’re trying to put everything in place that enables us to go on a long run.”