According to CSN's Brodie Brazil, Niclas Wallin is still having some issues with a foot injury that bothered him last season:
Doug Wilson not concerned by Wallin's foot injury. Wallin says it's not healing as quickly as he'd like.
Wilson seemed confident that Wallin would be fine for the regular season.
The 35 year old defenseman has averaged 66 games over the last three seasons, and is apparently still struggling with (presumably) the same ailments that kept him out of seven playoff games last year during San Jose's run to the Western Conference Finals.
Wallin was a -3 in six games played during the playoffs, logging 10:40 per game when he was in the lineup.
This turn of events is surprising considering the circumstances surrounding this offseason-- he was inked to a $2.5MM one-year deal on June 27th, three full days before free agency opened across the NHL. It was initially seen as an overpayment by Fear The Fin, and after a long summer where comparable defenseman such as Paul Mara and Ruslan Salei signed contracts well under one million dollars, that assertion hasn't taken much of a hit.
Although Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson stated that he was not concerned by Wallin's injury, and fully expects him to be back for the beginning of the season, the fact that four months of non-strenuous activity (i.e. non-game situations) has not been ample time to rehabilitate the injury should be somewhat of a concern.
Attentive readers will remember the back and forth that happened last season when a trade for Wallin was reported, called off, and then eventually completed. Rumors surrounding the deal implied that Wallin was looking for a contract extension in order to waive his no-trade clause from Carolina-- and although that extension wasn't officially given during the season, it's possible that a verbal agreement between the two parties was reached which ensured Wallin would be extended a contract for the 2010-2011 campaign. In other words, San Jose could have been fully aware of his injury at the time of the signing, but felt bound by the terms of this hypothetical verbal agreement to sign him anyways.
If Wallin is indeed struggling to fully recover from his foot injury, one would think that this will make the training camp battles at defense more competitive than they would have been. Andreas Lilja's tryout invitation makes more sense when placed into the context of Wallin's injury, and it also gives a little more opportunity to prospects such as Derek Joslin, Mike Moore, and Matt Irwin (among others) to crack the team and get some early playing time at the start of the year while Wallin gets fully healthy-- something that likely wouldn't have occurred considering seven healthy (or so we assumed) NHL defenseman were under contract two weeks ago.
The Swedish defenseman will likely push very hard to rehabilitate before the year begins, especially with the Sharks facing off against the Columbus Blue Jackets in his homeland of Sweden to start the NHL season. It's an opportunity he hasn't had since 2005 when, in the midst of the NHL lockout, he went to play for Lulea in the Swedish Elite League.