According to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, the Sharks have signed Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin to a 4-year contract. Originally drafted by New Jersey, the 34-year-old defenseman spent the past five seasons in Pittsburgh after signing there as an unrestricted free agent in 2010. Over that span, he's been one of the most important and certainly the most defensively reliable blueliner on a team that enjoyed a lot of regular season success.
Last season, Martin averaged a shade under 23 minutes a game with significant time on both special teams units. He scored 20 points and was a positive possession player for the Penguins, although he played a slightly different role under new head coach Mike Johnston than he was previously accustomed to, starting a lot of shifts in the offensive zone while largely skating alongside Kris Letang after years of dragging around noted pylon Brooks Orpik in tough minutes.
Martin's HERO chart over the past three years as a whole paints a very favorable picture of him as a blueliner whose defensive value and individual point production have both been first-pairing caliber, although his team's ability to generate offense with Martin on the ice hasn't been great. A lot of that, though, was likely due to the fact that he spent over 1000 5-on-5 minutes during that span partnered with the offensively inept Orpik. In fairness, his individual scoring should also be taken with a grain of salt given the amount of minutes he logged behind Sidney Crosby.
Perhaps the single most valuable aspect of Martin's game, and what makes him such a great fit for the Sharks at least in the short term, is his penalty killing. During his five years in Pittsburgh, only one defenseman in the entire NHL (P.K. Subban, whose defensive shortcomings are ridiculously exaggerated) played at least 500 minutes on the penalty kill and posted better shorthanded results than Martin. Given that the Sharks were 25th in the league on the kill this past season, that's a very positive sign.
Overall, Martin's excellent defensively while being nowhere near a liability in terms of puck-movement and skating. In some ways he gives the Sharks another Marc-Edouard Vlasic type albeit one with a bit more offensive upside who's perhaps not quite as extraordinary on the defensive side of the puck at evens. Martin, a left shot, also has tons of experience playing both the left and right side meaning he could easily slot in alongside Vlasic on the top pair if Justin Braun continues to struggle or could be Brent Burns' defensive conscience on the second pairing.
The only issue here is Martin's age —he'll be 38 at the end of this deal and, while he hasn't shown signs of decline just yet, it's entirely possible he's a shell of his former self by then. Still, given that he remained a very good player last season, there's a lot less risk for the Sharks here than in, say, trading an asset for an already underperforming Kevin Bieksa and signing him to a contract extension. Martin will undoubtedly improve San Jose's blueline this season and, with the way the team is set up, ensuring success this season should be the main priority. Depending on Martin's salary, the Sharks could also still have enough to land another impact defenseman.
UPDATE: The deal is for $19.4 million in total, a $4.85 AAV.
Paul Martin's deal with San Jose: four years x $4.85 M AAV— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 1, 2015
This leaves the Sharks with about $5 million in cap space, not including Raffi Torres' possible LTIR exemption, to potentially add a 6th or 7th defenseman and/or another winger.