Sharks unrestricted free agents: Outlook on Marleau, Nabokov, Blake

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bunchasharks.jpgIn the last post, I took a “big picture” look at the San Jose Sharks salary cap situation. The team has enough interesting free agent situations that I feel like their most noteworthy unrestricted free agents and restricted free agents deserve devoted posts. Now, keep in mind, this isn’t based on “insider” tips but rather a look at each scenario.

First, here’s the full list of unrestricted free agents for the Sharks.

Marleau, Patrick
Nabokov, Evgeni
Blake, Rob
Wallin, Niclas
Nichol, Scott
Malhotra, Manny
Vesce, Ryan
Ortmeyer, Jed
Groulx, Danny
Callahan, Joe
Doyle, Frank
Helminen, Dwight
Leach, Jay

Let’s take a look at the big three. It’s worth noting that the team may really want to bring back Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra, as well. After the jump, I’ll break down the situations for Marleau, Nabokov and Blake


nabbygoesbye.jpgPatrick Marleau

2009-10 season stats: 44 goals, 39 assists for 83 points

2009-10 playoff stats: 8 goals, 5 assists for 13 points

Two years removed from an abysmal 48 point season, Marleau put together one of his best years. He hit a career-high 44 goals skating often with Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. He was also, by far, the best source of offense for the Sharks against Chicago. He scored five goals and one assist in the series, meaning that he factored into all but one goal in the sweep.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the team stripped Marleau of the captaincy last summer. There also must be a great market for a high-scoring, swift skating and versatile forward like Marleau. My guess is that another team – maybe the Kings? – could price the Sharks out. They’ll have to hope for a hometown discount from Marleau, which is less likely after that “give us back the C” thing.

It seems like a coin flip to me, but if I had to guess right now, I’d say he might be back.

Evgeni Nabokov

2009-10 season stats: 44-16-11, 2.43 GAA, 92.2 save pct.

2009-10 playoff stats: 8-5-2, 2.52 GAA, 90.7 save pct.

I have to admit that last year’s playoffs against the Ducks changed my view on Nabokov. It tempered his successes (like his great regular season) and made his struggles (such as an ugly game in the Olympics against Team Canada) seem less surprising. Still, the Sharks depended on Nabby a lot this season, playing him in 71 games.

Many guess that he won’t be back next season and that seems like a reasonable assumption. One big reason: like Ilya Kovalchuk, Nabby might elect to take big money with the KHL. Even if he stays in the NHL, Nabokov is going to get paid a lot.

I just don’t think the Sharks will be the team paying him big money.

Rob Blake

2009-10 season stats: 7 goals, 23 assists for 30 points

2009-10 playoff stats: 1 goal, 1 assist for 2 points

Rob Blake is old. Pretty soon he’ll inherit all of those Chris Chelios old jokes like a big family passes down clothing.

The thing is, Blake is like Chelios in that he keeps providing solid-to-good play as he defies age. My gut feeling is that he would retire, but who knows, really? It’s really Blake’s choice. At the right price, I’m sure the Sharks would have him back.

So what are your thoughts? Do you think all three will be back? None of them? Somewhere in between? Do tell in the comments.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.