Ah yes, there it is
Judging by Rob Blake's play this season, I doubt there is many people who wouldn't want him back next year. However, as the situation will be with Ryane Clowe (hold your horses, that's coming in about two weeks or so), money will be the main detriment potentially depriving us of another season of Perry-spears and ill-timed hooking penalties.
The promise of a Perry-spear alone might be worth seven figures.
So instead of focusing the discussion around whether or not Rob Blake deserves inclusion onto next year's roster (my vote is yes), we're going to take a look at his specific skill set, what he brings to the roster, other players who could possibly fill that role, and how much we're willing to pay for his services.
Offense: Rob Blake is by no means a defensive slouch, but his $5 M contract last season wouldn't have happened without his booming slap shot from the point. Low, hard, and finds the front of the net- a definite plus. He's not the most agile of skaters and therefore can make the power play a tad one-dimensional when holding the puck on blueline (i.e. he's not going to cut to the net as often as someone like Dan Boyle), but only a select few players are able to do that with a consistent amount of success (the aforementioned Dan Boyle). In terms of players who played last season in San Jose, Christian Ehrhoff and Dan Boyle are the ones who would plug the holes on the power play if Blake left (read: the power play wouldn't be nearly as deadly). With Ehrhoff's maddening inconsistency in terms of pinching and making sure he's covering his partner, Blake's value increases even more in the offensive zone. Vlasic isn't a very good shooter, Murray goes without saying, Lukowich's shot doesn't have much net-nose if any, and while Semenov has potential to be serviceable he would not be a sufficient replacement. Blake's passing is also notable, and a big part of getting the breakout humming.
If we're giving this a rough metric only including current roster players, I'd say the offensive production from the blueline is a 9 with him and a 7 without.
Defense: Rob Blake is sound positionally, and although he had a tendency to take "lazy" penalties (hooking, holding etc.), that issue seemed to be somewhat remedied towards the tail end of the year. His decreased skating speed due to his age is most likely playing a big part in this. Although losing Blake may hurt San Jose the most in the offensive zone, his presence in front of the net is such a useful commodity that I'm unwilling to fully condone that statement. With the exception of Douglas Murray and the potential of Alexei Semenov, I'm not very confident in the rest of the defensemen's ability to consistently clear pucks and bodies out in front of the crease. This leaves a gaping hole if Blake walks this offseason, as well as depriving the Sharks of a true "shutdown pairing" (Vlasic-Blake).
Using the same rough metric, I'd say the defensive production from the blueline is a 9 with him and a 7.5 without.
Overall: Obviously Blake is a very useful player on the ice, as well as providing locker room intangibles. Unfortunately, with the Sharks backed up against the cap and Vlasic/Murray getting significant pay raises next season, it's coming down to money. And that's where things get dicey.
Pickles and Crankshaft are due to make 3.1 and 2.5 respectively next year, a combined pay raise of 4.265 M dollars. Subtracted from Rob Blake's previous salary of 5.0 M, that leaves us with .735 M to sign Blake if the blueline's payroll is to stay the same. The likelihood of this happening is similar to the chances of me purchasing a Nintendo 64 when I can download Banjo-Kazooie on Xbox Live. I already purchased Banjo on Live and am currently in Mad Monster Mansion. Convoluted as that last sentence may be, the point is Blake isn't signing for that sort of money.
Take a look at his previous contracts post-lockout.
With all that in mind, these are three questions I pose to myself every time I think about re-signing Rob Blake.
1) Who gets moved? Looking at the numbers (as well as keeping in mind that the salary cap is extremely volatile in this economic environment), re-signing Blake makes it necessary for other pieces to be moved in order to fit under next season's cap. Those players would likely return either a role player or draft picks (i.e. someone that would clear cap space).
2) How close to the cap are the Sharks going to spend? This season was the first season San Jose spent to the cap. With the aforementioned salary cap about as predictable as your next orgy, this poses a problem.
3) How much are you willing to sacrifice the future? Going back to number one, it stands to reason that teams will be looking at young players with high upside. Doug Wilson will need these players to have large enough contracts to clear space. I'm assuming that Setoguchi and Pavelski are untouchable due to the fact that they kick ass and have a low salary. That means Ehrhoff, Vlasic, Michalek, and Cheechoo are the candidates (with Cheechoo being my pick). Are we willing to part with these players and mortgage our future in order to take one last stab at the Cup?
Blake isn't getting any younger, and although he had a good season, we're likely looking at one more year with him wearing teal (when Setoguchi and Pavelski get pay raises). He's vital cog on the defense, but these services will likely come at a high price.
Plank's Final Offer: One year at $2.75 M. Let's hope he takes it.