SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks signed two more of their potential free agents Saturday before they hit the open market, agreeing to one-year deals with forward Scott Nichol and defenceman Niclas Wallin.
General manager Doug Wilson wanted to lock up both players before they were eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. The Sharks signed star forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski to four-year deals earlier in the week. The team would still like to sign forward Manny Malhotra before he can become a free agent next week.
The Sharks have decided to let one key free agent leave. Wilson announced earlier in the week that the team would not offer longtime goaltender Evgeni Nabokov a contract.
Nichol quickly became a fan favourite in his one season in San Jose, playing a physical, gritty game that the Sharks had been lacking.
He set career highs in points (19), assists (15) and games played (79) last season and finished first in the NHL by winning 60.6 per cent of his faceoffs. He was also 12th in the League with 226 hits.
“We knew when we brought Scott in last season that he was ultra-competitive,” Wilson said. “Not only did he meet that expectation, but he also brought a very businesslike mentality to the rink each night, stepping up as a leader and an important centreman for us.”
Nichol, 35, had previously played with Nashville, Chicago, Calgary and Buffalo in his 10-year career.
Wallin was acquired just before the Olympic break in a trade from Carolina to bolster the blue line for the post-season. Wallin sustained a lower body injury late in the regular season and was severely limited in the playoffs.
He played just one game in each of the first two rounds before playing all four games in the Western Conference finals against Chicago. The Blackhawks swept the series and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
With defenceman Rob Blake announcing his retirement earlier this month, the Sharks wanted to keep Wallin to make sure they had another physical defenceman next season.
“Niclas is a physical veteran presence and will help solidify our blue line,” Wilson said. “We were proud of the way he battled through a tough injury during the playoffs and are looking forward to having him at full health.”
Wallin, 35, had two assists in 23 regular season games with the Sharks and didn’t score in the post-season. He helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup in 2006.
San Jose also re-signed minor league centre Andrew Desjardins to a one-year deal. Desjardins, 23, set career highs in goals (19) and assists (27) while appearing in 80 games for Worcester in the American Hockey League.