For any Sharks fans who worried about losing Patrick Marleau to free agency, you can officially relax.
But those of you who fell into that category really had nothing to worry about.
Marleau wasn't going anywhere.
Do you really think the Sharks would let their best asset just walk out the door? The man who put the nails in the coffin of the Red Wings and who accounted for 71 percent of the Sharks' offensive load in the Western Conference final wasn't going to be let go.
It just wasn't going to happen and it didn't, as Marleau has just signed a brand new four-year deal keeping him in San Jose.
In addition, fellow center and teammate Joe Pavelski has also been extended for four more years.
So now both of San Jose's clutch playoff performers from last season have inked four-year deals, and while some news outlets have given the "as with team policy, financial terms of the deals were not disclosed" phrase in their reports, other publications have astutely announced the new monetary values.
Marleau will now make $6.9 million per season, an increase of $600K from last season, and Pavelski will make $4 million per season, a major raise from the $1.63 million he earned last season.
And when you ponder how much both players could have made in free agency, the contracts are significant "home town" discounts.
Despite playing the left wing alongside Thornton in recent years, Marleau would have been the most sought after free agent at the center position and realistically would have probably received at least one offer at, or over, the eight million mark.
Remember, Thornton makes $7.2 million and Dany Heatley makes $7.5 million. Marleau could of been in position to make significantly more than both those figures next season had he chosen to test the FA market.
That said, if Marleau wanted to be paid based on his production, he would have had every right to seek out more money from the Sharks or some other club.
Fortunately for Sharks fans, it's not about the money with Marleau as it is with say, Ilya Kovalchuk, who according to reports is seeking a max contract of $10 million per season as a free agent.
A career-long Shark, Marleau wants to win and he wants to do it in San Jose.
Similarly, Joe Pavelski obviously preferred to stay in San Jose rather than test just how much money his newfound fame could make him in free agency.
While his new contract is a hefty raise of nearly $2.5 million more per season, most people inside the game would tell you that Pavelski would have seen contract offers over the five million mark in free agency.
But doing the math of the discounted contracts between Pavelski and Marleau, the Sharks have only allocated a combined $2.97 million of more money to two of their best players who were potential free agents.
Talk about a financial score.
When you consider that the recently retired Rob Blake made $3.5 million last season, the Sharks have simply moved 85 percent of that contract over to Marleau and Pavelski.
That leaves about $500K from Blake's contract left over to go towards resigning the versatile Manny Malhotra, who made $700K last season and deserves significantly more for next season.
San Jose can take that $500K left from Blake's contract and throw on another $500K from the $5.375 million that they won't be paying Evgeni Nabokov anymore, and Malhotra can sign for $1.7 million.
So while certain fans are still lamenting the fact the Sharks decided to let a career Shark in Nabokov walk in free agency, the fact is the move gives them much more flexibility.
After all, the most successful goalies in recent years haven't been the superstar/expensive goaltenders.
Therefore, using Nabokov's money elsewhere makes all too much sense.
When the Sharks are done resigning Manny Malhotra, they will have approximately $4.875 million left from Nabokov's 2009-10 contract to spread elsewhere.
About $1.5 million of that can go to Devin Setoguchi's raise for next season.
Setoguchi made $1.24 million last season and due to an inconsistent regular and postseason, a shallow raise to $2.75 million would seem about right.
That leaves $3.375 million of Nabokov's contract remaining. And you can add to that total a couple of other expired contracts. With fourth line center Scott Nichol's $775K and fourth line winger Jed Ortmeyer's $550K, the Sharks have $4.7 million in cap room to work with.
This doesn't mean either Nichol or Ortmeyer shoudn't return, but as of now, they are two players worthy of letting test free agency.
Neither player has talents vital to the Sharks' success next season. With younger and cheaper options available to replace them, that money can be used elsewhere.
With $4.7 million of space between the expiring contracts of Nabokov, Nichol, and Ortmeyer left, you can look at other expiring contracts that add to the total.
The recently traded away Brad Staubitz made $497K last year with San Jose and Niclas Wallin made $572K in half a season with the Sharks.
Therefore, about another million can be added to the available cap room. Around $5.7 million worth of room available, plus the NHL cap mark is now going to be raised another $2.6 million, adding even more room for the Sharks to manuever.
Now the mark sores to around $8.3 million available for the Sharks with the following lineup already under contract:
Most of the starting lineup is already under contract at this point.
Remaining holes for the Sharks are one more forward, another defenseman, a veteran goalie, and maybe a couple of scrapheap pickups for depth concerns.
A couple of scrapheaps should cost no more than $1.25 million, a veteran goalie for cheap would be about $2 million, and a nice veteran forward who can score would be, say, $2.5 million, totalling up to $5.75 million.
Subtract that amount from $8.3 million, and the Sharks have $2.55 million remaining to sign another defenseman.
Now, whether or not the Sharks spend $2.5 million on a veteran forward who can score, they could instead re-sign Scott Nichol for $1 million and spend that extra $1.5 million to sign a better free agent defenseman.
That $2.55 million left over to sign a defenseman would then become over four million, enough to sign a quality top-four defender if San Jose prefers to take that route.
Simply put, the Sharks currently have numerous different options in filling out their roster over the offseason.
With Blake retiring and Doug Wilson making the difficult but correct decision to let Nabokov leave for free agency, the Sharks are set up with an enormous amount of flexibility in where they wish to distribute the money.
And while the offseason is still young, this flexibility is what has allowed the Sharks to hold onto vital cogs in Marleau and Pavelski, as well as have the ability to sign new talent when the free agency period begins July 1.
These two notions give the Sharks a tremendous chance for a second straight deep postseason run in 2010-2011.
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