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All the right moves
Sharks having a satisfying off-season
7/11/10 - By Paul Krill -

When the Sharks bowed out of the playoffs this past spring, it was the end of another season that fell short of the goal of a Stanley Cup championship. And the Sharks unfortunately renewed their membership in that exclusive club of teams that have never been to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Since then, however, Sharks GM Doug Wilson has been making all the right moves, providing for an interesting off-season.

First, he lets longtime goaltender Evgeni Nabokov (and his $6 million salary) leave, replacing him with much-cheaper Antero Nittymaki. (Goalies are becoming a commodity these days. Teams don't have to spend a lot of money on them to win.)

Then, Wilson brings back Patrick Marleau, so we all need to check the schedule for the 47th game of the season, which would be Marleau's 1,000th career regular season game. Marleau is expected to become the first Shark to ever play in 1,000 games all with the Sharks. Wilson also re-signed Joe Pavelski. (OK, we did lose Manny Malhotra, but it was unrealistic to think we could bring back everyone.)

Now, adding suspense to the off-season, Wilson has gone ahead and offered a restricted free agent contract to Chicago defenseman Nicklas Hjalmarsson, which would fill a need for a top defenseman to replace retired Rob Blake. We can now wait until next Friday to find out whether the Blackhawks match the offer, which gives Hjalmarsson, just 23 years old, a raise from $660,000 last season to $3.5 million next year. Not a bad salary increase these days.

The Blackhawks are in Salary Cap Hell and Wilson apparently saw an opportunity to use this situation to help the Sharks. Tough break, Blackhawks. Even if the Blackhawks match the offer and retain the services of Hjalmarsson, their cap situation becomes even worse.

Wilson's moves this offseason dismiss the notion that the Sharks' opportunity to win the Stanley Cup has come and gone and that it would all be downhill from here. Sharks fans can look forward to this season with the same enthusiasm as recent seasons.

For now, we can all wait out next Friday and see if the Sharks can score a victory against the Blackhawks in the offseason's free agency battles.


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