SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Sharks knew it would take some time to see the benefits of the deal two years ago to acquire James Sheppard from Minnesota.
After spending most of his first year in San Jose rehabbing from a serious leg injury, Sheppard completed his two-year journey back to the NHL in January and showed flashes of why the Wild drafted him in the first round in 2006.
The Sharks re-signed Sheppard to a one-year deal on Wednesday that prevents him from becoming a restricted free agent next month as they hope to build on that progress even more this upcoming season.
“When you see a guy go through adversity and a challenge like this it does reveal his character,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “But this is a kid who was a very highly drafted player and a very talented player. I think his best hockey is now ahead of him. … Now I think you'll see him flourish. We're not even going to put a limit on where he can get to.”
The Sharks also signed Andrew Desjardins to a two-year contract. Both forwards could have been restricted free agents July 5 if they had not reached deals.
“I'm very happy to have both these guys signed,” Wilson said. “They play the way we're looking for our team to play.”
The Sharks originally acquired Sheppard in August 2011 from the Wild for a 2013 third-round draft pick. Sheppard had been suspended the previous season by Minnesota after suffering a career-threatening leg injury from an off-season ATV accident.
Sheppard played four minor league games his first season with the Sharks but got more time at Worcester during the lockout last season.
He made his debut with San Jose on Jan. 22 and had one goal and three assists in 32 regular season games. He had no points in 11 playoff games but showed the Sharks enough for them to want him back next season.
“It was such an intricate injury that I'm not going to be 100 per cent maybe ever but I'm always getting closer and closer,” Sheppard said. “The more time passes the better I feel and the stronger I feel. … I still expect to play better and I have more goals for myself that I want to accomplish.”
Desjardins had two goals and one assist and 61 penalty minutes in 42 games last season playing mostly on the fourth line. He won 54.2 per cent of his faceoffs and got significant time on a much-improved penalty kill unit. Desjardins, 26, was the team's rookie of the year the previous season when he had four goals and 13 assists.
Desjardins has had an impressive journey since starting his professional career playing in Laredo, Texas, in the Central Hockey League.
“He's never been given anything,” Wilson said. “He fought, scratched and clawed and earned respect of his teammates. He's a tough kid. He's really the type of guy you want on your team. He does all the things that matter, faceoffs, PK, he'll block shots, certainly skate, he'll battle anybody and stand up for his teammates. He's the type of kid who has really earned his place on this team.”
Wilson has been busy this off-season since the Sharks were eliminated in seven games in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings. He agreed to a five-year contract extension with star centre Logan Couture to keep him off the market next summer. That deal won't be official until July 5.
Wilson also signed potential unrestricted free agent forward Raffi Torres to a $6 million, three-year deal and extended the contract of head coach Todd McLellan.
San Jose still has two more potential restricted free agents in forward TJ Galiardi and defenceman Jason Demers. Forwards Scott Gomez and Tim Kennedy, defenceman Scott Hannan, and backup goalies Thomas Greiss and Alex Stalock are among the potential unrestricted free agents.