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Another hole to plug
Korolyuk opts to stay in Russia
8/25/05 - by Mike Lee

The Sharks have one more hole to fill before the start of the regular season, after forward Alexander Korolyuk decided to remain in his native Russia rather than return to San Jose after posting career numbers in 2003-04. Korolyuk's agent and former Shark Brian Lawton informed the Sharks of the winger's decision. Korolyuk is the only player the Shaks offered salary arbitration to this season, which was slated have his arbitration hearing heard on Friday.

That arbitration hearing will still take place, and the Sharks will retain Korolyuk's rights at the financial term deemed appropriate by the arbitrator. Should Korolyuk return to the NHL, he would still remain the property of San Jose and will not be able to qualify for age based unrestricted free-agency.

The move was not unexpected by the Sharks, who had forecasted that Korolyuk would stay in Russia where he'll probably command similar money to what he would have earned in North America. The big difference is he's now a bigger fish in a little pond, and will have an easier time putting up numbers now that the world's elite players are all returning to the NHL.

''I'd like to thank Alex and (agent) Brian Lawton for notifying us of Alex's decision prior to the arbitration hearing tomorrow in Toronto,'' said Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson. ''This was not unexpected and I respect Alex for making this family decision. This creates the opportunity for additional ice time for players like Marco Sturm, Niko Dimitrakos and Milan Michalek. If and when Alex decides to return to the National Hockey League, we look forward to him playing for the San Jose Sharks.''

Wilson intentionally used arbitration as the only card that would allow San Jose to retain Korolyuk's rights.

The 29 year-old forward had career highs in goals (19) and points (37) last season with San Jose. That coming after a return to North America in 2003. Korolyuk fell out of favor with then Sharks head coach Darryl Sutter, and ended up leaving San Jose after the 2001-02 season to play a year for Kazan Ak-Bars of the Russian Elite League.

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