It's been well over 24 hours since news broke regarding an agreement reached by the NHL and players' association on a new CBA but this still doesn't feel any less awesome to type: the lockout is over and the Sharks are back. Well, not quite yet. There's still training camp to sit through but, at some point in the next two weeks, we'll get to see Joe Thornton thread the needle to Patrick Marleau, Martin Havlat dangle through two defensemen and Dan Boyle run a power play like he's conducting an orchestra.
If you're unlike me, you probably made the responsible decision to stay as far away from anything NHL-related as possible during the protracted, pointless lockout. It's also possible you don't remember much about what was going on before Gary Bettman and company rediscovered their favorite hobby of flushing hockey games down the toilet. No worries, we've got you covered with a full timeline of the Sharks' 2012 offseason.
June 10: With the Stanley Cup Final still in full swing, the Sharks made a move that had been telegraphed for nearly a year in advance. Doug Wilson finally made a trade with the only team he had never dealt with during his tenure as GM, acquiring the exclusive negotiating rights to impending unrestricted free agent defenseman and former Shark Brad Stuart from Detroit in exchange for Andrew Murray and a conditional seventh round draft pick. We looked at whether Stuart, who made his summer home in San Jose since his days in teal and had been linked to the Sharks for a while, would be able to bolster the team's woeful penalty kill and fit into their blueline's top four as an upgrade over Douglas Murray.
June 18: About a week later, the Sharks finally signed Stuart to a 3-year, $10.8 million contract that would make him the third highest-paid defenseman on one of the most expensive bluelines in the league during the coming season. Stuart will play his first game as a Shark since November 2005 next week, wearing the same sweater number the 3rd overall pick in the 1998 entry draft did in his first tour of duty with San Jose.
June 22: In an uncharacteristically low-event draft for the organization, Doug Wilson and the rest of the Sharks' brass actually kept their first rounder and selected Czech center Tomas Hertl with the 17th overall pick, their highest selection since choosing Logan Couture 9th overall in 2007. They would round out their draft the next day by adding Chris Tierney, Christophe Lalancette, Daniel O'Regan, Clifford Watson and Joakim Ryan in rounds two through seven.
June 26: The team submitted qualifying offers to several of its restricted free agents and re-signed three others, inking center Andrew Desjardins to a 1-year, $640,000 deal, winger Tommy Wingels to a 2-year, $1.5 million contract and defenseman Justin Braun for 3 years and $3.75 million.
July 1: With rampant speculation surrounding prized pigs Zach Parise and Ryan Suter grabbing headlines, the Sharks made a typically understated free agent signing, inking role player Adam Burish, a former Cup winner with the Blackhawks team that swept San Jose out of the Western Conference Final, to a 4-year, $7.2 million contract. Here's our analysis of the signing, with the takeaway being that the term length of the deal is a bit excessive and Burish really only fits in the team's lineup if Todd McLellan drastically changes his forward deployment strategy. Elsewhere, longtime Shark Torrey Mitchell joined his BFF Devin Setoguchi in Minnesota, undoubtedly the most important move the Wild made last summer.
July 9: In perhaps their biggest move of the offseason, the Sharks announced that Hall of Fame defenseman and former New Jersey Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson had agreed to a two-year contract to serve as San Jose's associate coach. In related moves, the Sharks also added Washington Capitals assistant Jim Johnson to their bench and allowed their own assistant coach Matt Shaw to take a similar position in New Jersey. In Robinson, the Sharks have a man who played a part in New Jersey being arguably the best penalty kill unit in the NHL over the past three seasons, a huge boon for a San Jose PK that placed in the bottom third of the league in efficiency in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Robinson also worked wonders with a Devils blueline that was perpetually bleeding talent between lockouts and playing in front of an aging and mediocre Martin Brodeur.
July 11: Coming off his best season as a Shark, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic entered the 2012 offseason with just one year remaining on his contract prior to unrestricted free agency. Doug Wilson changed that by signing the 25-year-old to a 5-year, $21.25 million extension. Last season, only Nicklas Lidstrom and Kimmo Timonen faced a higher caliber of opposing forwards than Vlasic and posted a higher on-ice shot differential. The kid can play.
July 20: Daniel Winnik, one of the two roster players the Sharks received from Colorado at the trade deadline in exchange for Jamie McGinn and Michael Sgarbossa, signed with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent instead of sticking around in San Jose. The decision to allow Winnik to walk was a puzzling one to say the least as he was one of the few bright spots on the team down the stretch and appeared to be their only competent penalty killing forward. His track record as a defensive forward at even-strength is also pretty close to impeccable and he signed in Southern California for just two years and $3.6 million after waiting out the market, a much better deal than what the Sharks signed the inferior Burish to.
July 23: After months of unending speculation, much of which linked him to the Sharks, Columbus captain Rick Nash was finally traded to the New York Rangers for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and a first round pick. It was really a bit of a relief as it meant Logan Couture, rumored to have been Scott Howson's asking price, and Joe Pavelski, a logical second choice to center a potential deal around, would stay Sharks and San Jose would have no part of Nash's behemoth of a contract.
Overall, the Sharks had a relatively quiet offseason by their standards before the lockout began and engulfed half the regular season in its wake. They made no substantial changes to a team that finished 7th in the Western Conference then fashioned the quickest postseason exit in franchise history. San Jose's prospects for this season aren't nearly as dismal as that makes them sound, however, as internal improvement is to be expected after an underwhelming campaign. The team will surely score on more than 6.6% of the shots they take at even-strength and, with Larry Robinson on board, their penalty kill likely won't be as hapless as it was in 2011-12. A healthy Ryane Clowe playing in a contract year should be more effective than whoever was wearing #29 last season while Martin Havlat can hopefully stay in the lineup on a consistent basis.
On the other hand, the Sharks did nothing to address their pitiful forward depth as Michal Handzus remains the team's presumptive third-line center heading into training camp despite what was a disastrous debut season in teal by any measure. It's still possible the team can salvage that particular blunder by signing a stop-gap measure like Jason Arnott but that remains to be seen. Anything can happen in a 48-game season and if even half the things that went miserably wrong for the Sharks last year can go right this time around, they could easily be competitive for the division title once again.