Wallin, Nichol ink new deals: What this means for San Jose going forward
The San Jose Sharks have re-signed unrestricted free agents Scott Nichol and Niclas Wallin to one year deals according to sjsharks.com.
Although financial details are not officially confirmed by the team, Pierre Lebrun and Capgeek.com are reporting that Wallin's contract will count for $2.5MM against the Sharks 2010-2011 salary cap. With Nichol reportedly coming in at $0.760MM San Jose is left with roughly $8.965MM to fill out the roster, with nine forwards, six defenseman, and one goaltender under contract.
Devin Setoguchi and Manny Malhotra are the two notable free agents who have yet to be signed.
Scott Nichol was an important piece to the fourth line last year, making significant contributions on the shorthanded unit, in the faceoff circle, as well as bringing a junkyard dog type mentality while forechecking. A contract raise of a mere $10,000 is more than acceptable for his services.
Niclas Wallin on the other hand, is quite possibly one of the most confusing situations to occur in San Jose in the last few years. His trade for a second round selection at the 2010 NHL Trade Deadline was questioned by us from the moment the deal became official, and a $2.5MM contract seems like quite the overpayment for a 35 year old who played largely on the third pairing during his twenty nine games in teal.
Wallin's contract will be the highest in his career, a 45% increase from the $1.725MM he made the last four seasons.
To say that we were unhappy with these proceedings would likely be an understatement-- it brings back memories of the Kent Huskins contract from last season where, after an injury plagued year, the journeyman blueliner received a hefty $3.4MM contract spread out over two seasons. Huskins provides some value on the third pairing, as does Wallin, but the level of compensation Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson has allocated to these two players does not fit where they are projected to play.
In essence, San Jose now has four blueliners who serve a four, five, or six role-- Murray is best suited in the four slot, and Wallin, Huskins, and Demers are all bottom pairing talents who would be asked to play more minutes than they are capable of if the Sharks do not make a splash in the free agent or trade market this summer.
Wallin's signing sets up three potential scenarios heading into July 1st.
The first is that Wilson is content with the blueline he has in place, and is willing to enter the 2010-2011 season with a hodgepodge crew of defensively questionable lower end players. It would be nothing short of a tragedy, setting up a situation where San Jose, in one months time, has downgraded both the goaltending and defensive positions. You have to figure this isn't a desirable option for the organization considering they were ranked 23rd in shots against last season, and have been pegged by FTF and it's readers as requiring a legitimate top three defenseman such as Paul Martin or Dan Hamhuis to join the team.
The second option is that the Sharks will heavily pursue a top goaltender in the trade market. Wilson is known for his consistent ability to complete favorable deals in this area, with players such as Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley, and Joe Thornton all coming over via trade. Tomas Vokoun, who we labeled as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL earlier this year, has been casually linked to San Jose this offseason in rumor circles. With Florida undergoing a regime change after bringing in Dale Tallon as General Manager, this may be something Wilson has been pursuing. Whether or not this is the route he goes is unknown of course, but the strange signing of Wallin does put this possibility on the table.
Our final, and third option, is that the Sharks will trade a defenseman in order to clear space for a free agent to join the team. Kent Huskins is the most appealing option here due to his cap hit and relative skill level, but he would have to be packaged with a more impact player in order to receive much of anything. We feel Douglas Murray is also on the table now considering his contract size-- in this is the case, we would definitely question the decision to sign Wallin before July 1st, which essentially would have forced the Sharks hand into trading the better defenseman without extending an offer to a player in the free agent class.
Demers is unlikely to be moved in our opinion considering he is on an entry-level deal and was a big factor on the power play this season. His young age, and promise in the offensive zone, also contributes to this idea.
All in all, we consider Wilson's day with these two players relatively poor. The signing of Scott Nichol gets a green light from us, but Wallin's contract is far too much for what he brings to the table. It puts the Sharks in a position where obtaining a big ticket defenseman is more difficult than it was earlier this weekend.
Seems like the assertion that Wilson tends to overpay for depth defenseman is starting to get some serious legs.