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Blake set to hang up his skates
Defenseman to end his 20-year NHL career
6/9/10 - By Mike Lee -

The Sharks have quite a bit of work to do this off season in terms of deciding how to frame the roster. Their first move will most likely come in the form of a retirement announcement after CSN Bay Are reported that veteran defenseman Rob Blake is set to call it a career next week. The Sharks captain completed his 20th NHL season when the Sharks were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks two weeks ago, but at 41, Blake seems destined for his life after hockey.

Blake goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to San Jose will go unfulfilled, but his leadership both on and off the ice may be a foundation piece for future Sharks success. The Ontario native was brought to San Jose to provide defensive toughness as well as leadership, especially in terms of teaching the younger Shark players how to become professionals.

His retirement would mean the Sharks have one more defensive hole to fill, although it comes at a savings of $3.5 million. That was Blake's salary last season, but now GM Doug Wilson will need to figure out how to apply that money.

He has four key free agents that he needs to figure out how to pay for. Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov are both unrestricted free agents, and will most likely command significant dollars.

Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi are restricted free agents, but that doesn't mean they'll come at a discount. Pavelski had a breakout performance in the first two rounds of the playoffs against Colorado and Detroit, but he tapered off in the Conference Finals.

Expect to see a hefty raise for Pavelski, who made $1.75 million last season. Setoguchi was a relative bargain at $765,000, and will also command more money next season.

San Jose will also have to figure out if Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichols are in their plans. They played at the bargain basement cost of $700,000 and $750,000 respectively.

Dealing with those salaries gets added to the fact that San Jose needs to pay for a defenseman to replace Blake. It's unlikely that they will resign Niklas Wallin, who is leaning toward retirement himself. He also missed a good part of the playoffs with an injury.

Blake leaves the game with solid numbers, and is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He scored 240 goals and added 537 assists in 1270 NHL games, while racking up 1679 penalty minutes.

He played in 146 playoffs games, including a stint with the Colorado Avalanche, that netted him his only Stanley Cup in 2001. He won the Norris Trophy in 1998 while playing for the Los Angeles Kings. The majority of his career was played in Los Angeles, where he served as captain from 1996 through 2001.

The Kings took Blake in the 4th round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, 70th overall, while playing at Bowling Green University.


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