Sharks Finally A Cup Contender?

Sheldon ArsenaultCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2008

The Sharks are swimming in a different direction.

San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson has given his team a facelift for the upcoming 2008-09 season. Gone are the likes of Brian Campbell, Patrick Rissmiller, Matt Carle and Craig Rivet. In are experienced rearguards Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich.

Quiet for the first few days of the NHL’s free agency period commencing on July 1, Wilson spent this time to orchestrate what has proven to be some significant changes to his team for next season.

While there are many different avenues in which to analyze roster moves. One of the most important factors that comes into play with the Sharks incoming defensemen could be stored in a tiny black box; their Stanley Cup rings.

Blake was part of the 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche team that captured the Cup. That year, a 31 year old Blake had an amazing 19 points in 23 playoff games, while taking a backseat to “feelgood” first-time Stanley Cup winner Ray Bourque.

Boyle and Lukowich were part of the 2004 Stanley Cup champion Bolts the year before the NHL lockout, when they defeated the Calgary Flames in 7 games. Boyle was a key contributer while Lukowich missed 5 games but remained a key part of the championship.

Lukowich also has his name etched on Stanley’s mug from his rookie season in 1999 with the “illegal cup-winning goal” Dallas Stars. 

When you break it down, the bottom line comes down to the fact that in the past 48 hours, the San Jose Sharks have gone from having a grand total of zero players having won the Stanley Cup to having three (four rings). Not to mention the addition of new Head Coach Todd McLellan, who comes over from the Red Wings having just gotten himself fitted for his piece of championship jewelry.

Both Blake and Boyle chose to come to the Sharks. Blake signed as a free agent and Boyle chose to waive his no-trade clause.  Therefore both players wanted to come to this team.

As Boyle indicated “when analyzing the teams we chose San Jose because they have a great chance to win it all, not only this season, but for the next 6.” Boyle has a 6 year $40 million extension that commences with the 08-09 season.

I have heard some chatter about overpaying for Blake on the free agent market. He is a 38 year old veteran whose better days are definitely behind him.

That being said the investment in Blake will end up being felt for years to come. Blake will come in and teach and mentor the young players for the Sharks. He will show these youngsters how to be a good pro.

Down the line guys like Vlasic, Ehrhoff (if he gets re-signed, current RFA) and Doug Murray will learn a tremendous amount from Blake which will in turn make them better professionals down the road. $5 million is a lot of money but will undoubtedly turn out to be a bargain when it is all said and done.

When you trade for a player of Boyle’s calibre (who is VERY unhappy at how things shook down with the Lightning), you need to give up some good assets. There is no denying that Matt Carle is a great asset.

A great young offensive defenseman with plenty of offensive upside is a player that could be feeding Stamkos of the power play for some time to come. Ty Wishart is a heck of a prospect, a former 1st round pick that is a big body who can play the offensive side of the puck very well.

There are concerns about his commitment levels and attitude but at the end of the day, this guy can play and has good potential.

The picks they lost in this trade (1st in 09 and 4th in 10), the Sharks regained by trading Craig Rivet (2nd in 09 and 10). Rivet was not unwanted in San Jose but he simply got caught in the numbers game.

The Sharks still have to sign some forwards for the upcoming season and had little cap room to do so. This trade frees up 3.5 million for those players. Oh the beauty of the Salary Cap era. 

2008-09 promises to be an exciting season for the Sharks but only time will tell if the organizational changes will translate into a team that can take that extra step which has been lacking. They certainly have set themselves up to contend. Really that’s all GM Doug Wilson can do.