San Jose Sharks: Doug Wilson Makes First Offseason Mistake By Re-Signing Wallin

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJune 27, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08:  Niclas Wallin #7 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Detroit Red Wings in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 8, 2010 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Just two days ago, the San Jose Sharks were executing a perfect offseason plan. They made their first, and most critical, course of action by parting ways with franchise goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.

The move enabled San Jose to have more flexibility in re-signing the rest of their key free agents.

While the decision to not bring Nabokov back wasn't easy, even the biggest Nabokov supporters realize the move was a necessary one under the salary cap.

The Sharks clearly had to choose between bringing back the soon to be 35-year-old Nabokov or soon to be 31-year-old star forward Patrick Marleau.

Marleau is now the bigger staple in San Jose (by virtue of being the longest tenured Shark), and he is coming off back to back career seasons in goals. He was far and away San Jose's best player during this past year's Western Conference finals.

Point being, Marleau lived up to expectations when it mattered most. Nabokov, on the other hand, continued to offer inconsistent play during the postseason, and he did not perform up to his capabilities in the Conference finals.

Therefore, the choice to bring Marleau back was the only one to make. Based on each player's performance, and the current trend of cheap goaltenders performing well in the postseason, the Sharks made the smart choice.

With Marleau re-signed, along with another star performer in Joe Pavelski, San Jose fans can let go a major sigh of relief.

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Just a day after the Sharks demonstrated the beginnings of what looked like a perfectly executed offseason plan, however, GM Doug Wilson made and extremely puzzling decision.

He re-signed his midseason pickup from last season, defenseman Niclas Wallin, to a one-year, $2.5 million dollar contract.

For those of you who follow team teal, you can join me in a collective "huh?"

And for those of you who haven't followed the Sharks, or even the NHL, closely over the years, I'll explain just how bizarre the signing is at this time.

Wallin is 35 years old. He is a 6'3", 220 pound defenseman with below average speed for his position, and is absolutely worthless offensively.

In parts of nine seasons at the NHL level, he has totaled just 18 career goals and 71 career points. He has never posted more than 10 points in a season.

Furthermore, his set a career high in games played, with 77, all the way back in 2002-03.

Since then, his highest total is 70, with a low of 50 and multiple seasons in the mid-60's.

He never plays a full season, can't score, and has minimal speed.

Plus, his only memorable moment in a Sharks uniform was his embarrassing flop in Game Two of the Western Conference finals. Wallin had possession of the puck, with no pressure whatsoever, as he stood behind his own net.

Instead of clearing the puck out of the zone, or skating it out when pressure arrived, Wallin barely moved, braced for contact, got knocked on his rear end by a smaller player, and lost the puck, which led to a Chicago goal two seconds later.

Believe me, the entire HP Pavilion crowd was in the same state of shock. Everyone had the same question on their minds, "what the heck was that?"

Wallin didn't score a single goal last season between regular season and playoffs.

Considering his age, limited speed, lack of offense, and his history of injuries, Wallin would not be a sought after free agent had he been allowed to test the market.

Especially when you look at the depth of free agent defenseman available, signing Wallin prior to the July 1 date was absolutely absurd.

Wallin made $1.7 million last year between Carolina and San Jose. By virtue of his performance and role on the team, he didn't even deserve that. And yet, the Sharks gave him a raise?

For what possible reason was he owed a raise? Yes, a Stanley Cup ring and a veteran presence can bring value as a sixth/seventh defenseman on the depth chart.

But a sixth/seventh defenseman on the roster doesn't deserve a $1 million contract, much less a $2.5 million dollar contract.

If fourth line energy man Scott Nichol (who chipped in a career season in his first year as a Shark) only earned a $10K raise, how does Wallin, who had one of his worst seasons of his career, earn a raise of $775K?

Most fans and people involved in the game agree the Sharks must get faster and younger defensively, and this move is exactly the opposite of that.

Not only does the money involved require the Sharks to play Wallin every game that he his healthy, but it limits their ability to sign younger and more talented free agent defensemen come July.

And for as highly respected as Doug Wilson is as San Jose's GM, letting Wallin sign for this much money so early in the offseason is a move fans will rightfully criticize come next season if the Sharks don't live up to expectations.

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