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Sharks sign Michael Handzus, Jim Vandermeer on 1st day of free agency

SAN JOSE, Calif. - The San Jose Sharks opened the free agency period by filling two of their remaining needs, signing forward Michal Handzus to a $5 million, two-year contract and defenceman Jim Vandermeer to a $1 million, one-year deal Friday.

The moves follow last week's trade with Minnesota for all-star defenceman Brent Burns, giving the Sharks a proven penalty killer and a physical defenceman to bring depth to the blue line.

Handzus, 34, appeared in all 82 regular-season games for Los Angeles last season, recording 12 goals and 18 assists. He led Kings forwards in short-handed ice time on the fourth-best, penalty-killing team in the NHL. He also is strong in the faceoff circle.

With Joe Pavelski expected to move back to one of the top two lines after 22-goal scorer Devin Setoguchi was traded to the Wild and free agent Scott Nichol not being brought back, the Sharks needed a player like Handzus.

"Michal is an extremely skilled player that has a great mix of size and competitiveness," general manager Doug Wilson said. "He is one of the top penalty-killing forwards in this league and has the ability to play in any situation."

Handzus has 172 goals and 263 assists in 844 games in his 12-year career with the Kings, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and St. Louis. He has also made the playoffs eight times, including last season when he lost to the Sharks in six games in the opening round.

The Sharks kept restricted free agents Jamie McGinn, Andrew Desjardins and Frazer McLaren before the start of free agency and have Torrey Mitchell under contract as players expected to compete for time on the third and fourth lines.

Wilson said he has not talked with representatives for free agent Kyle Wellwood, leaving his status to be determined.

Vandermeer, 31, had only two goals and 12 assists in 62 games with Edmonton last season. But his strengths come in other aspects of his game. He had 74 penalty minutes and finished fourth on the Oilers with 122 hits and 78 blocked shots.

"We were looking for a big physical stopper and a guy who has that physical presence that would complement the rest of our group," Wilson said. "We really like how our defence looks now with all the different components."

He gives the Sharks another option for their third defensive pairing, along with more offensive players like Jason Demers and Justin Braun.

The San Jose defence is led by Burns, all-star Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Free agent Ian White became expendable when Burns signed and Kent Huskins will most likely not be back after the Sharks added Vandermeer to fill the role of a rugged defenceman.

"He's very tough," Wilson said. "People don't like to play against him. He's a great teammate. He plays very hard. He knows the Western Conference well. He's not afraid to drop gloves and take care of his teammates. He's an intimidation factor that's a nice complement with what Douglas Murray brings to our group."

Vandermeer has spent most of his eight-year NHL career in the Western Conference, except for two stints in Philadelphia. Vandermeer has 24 goals and 77 assists in 436 career games with the Flyers, Chicago, Edmonton, Phoenix and Calgary.

He has made the playoffs just three times in his career, losing in the first round to the Sharks in 2008. That made joining a team that has made it to the Western Conference final the past two seasons a desirable option in free agency.

"It was a pretty big factor in the decision-making process," Vandermeer said. "Looking where this team is at right now, it's looking like a really good opportunity."


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