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.

Andrei Vasilevskiy robs Evgeny Kuznetsov (Video)

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Surely, the Washington Capitals should be leading Game 6.

They came out on fire, led by Alex Ovechkin, and stayed that way throughout the first period.

Their only problem? Andrei Vasilevskiy and the wall he put up.

Vasilevskiy needed to be solid to stop on the Capitals’ onslaught and he was, write down to the final moments of the period and his best save, a sprawling glove-hand effort to stop Evgeny Kuznetsov in his tracks on the doorstep to keep the game tied 1-1.

Fatigued? Vasilevskiy wasn’t showing any of that in the first period.

After two sub .850 outings in Games 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy has stormed back to spark the Lightning to three straight wins behind his strong play.

• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals have to conquer postseason demons one more time
Lightning ready for a ‘desperate’ Capitals team in Game 6
Vasilevskiy turns East final around for Lightning

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Lightning seek Stanley Cup Final berth in Game 6

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Game 6: Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals, 8 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-2)
NBCSN
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals have to conquer postseason demons one more time
Lightning ready for a ‘desperate’ Capitals team in Game 6
Vasilevskiy turns East final around for Lightning

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Paul Fenton hired as new Minnesota Wild GM

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Almost exactly one month after firing Chuck Fletcher, the Minnesota Wild have found his replacement as general manager. During a Tuesday press conference, the franchise will introduce Paul Fenton as the man who will take over the job.

Fenton, who was the first person owner Craig Leipold interviewed last month, will also oversee the team’s hockey operations department and act as alternate governor

“It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Paul Fenton as the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild,” said Leipold in a statement. “Paul is uniquely suited for this job having played 10 years of professional hockey and holding 25 years of management experience in the NHL. His gift of evaluating talent is obvious in Nashville’s roster and recent success. My relationship with Paul goes back to my early days in Nashville and I know that Wild hockey fans are going to love Paul’s infectious passion for the game and unsurpassed work ethic. He’s the right person to deliver a Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey.”

It took a while — 20 years to be exact — but Fenton finally decided to leave the Nashville Predators where he spent the last dozen years as the team’s assistant GM. He played a role in building that franchise into a Stanley Cup contender and turning around their minor league system. Now in Minnesota he’ll have his work cut out for him.

The Wild made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past six seasons, but could not get past the second round. This spring they were knocked out in the first round for the third straight season, costing Fletcher his job after nine years.

Fenton will have to deal with restricted free agents Jason Zucker and Mathew Dumba with this summer, as well as face plenty of challenges in carving his roster into something that could look like a perennial contender. The long-term, cap space-eating contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter won’t help things. According to Cap Friendly, the Wild have about $7.5 million in cap space for next season, and that’s before new deals for Zucker and Dumba and potentially a $3 million increase in the ceiling.

“We want to win a Stanley Cup,” Leipold said last month via the Pioneer Press after the Wild’s first-round exit. “That doesn’t mean that that’s going to be next year. I want someone to help me with a plan for the next three or four years to win a Stanley Cup. That’s what I’m looking for.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Islanders to hire Lou Lamoriello to run hockey operations: report

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It’s expected this week that the New York Islanders will officially announce the hiring of Lou Lamoriello to run their hockey operation department, according to Arthur Staple of The Athletic.

It’s unclear at the moment what specific role the 75-year-old Lamoriello will have within the organization. It’s possible he takes over the role of president of hockey operations or general manager, or potentially both. His son, Chris, is the Islanders’ assistant GM.

Last month, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Lamoriello would not return as their GM after three seasons at the helm.

Staple also confirmed a Hockey30 report that Lamoriello met with Islanders captain John Tavares last week ahead of this move. Tavares is set to become an unrestricted free agent only July 1.

There are many questions to be answered as we wait for the Islanders to announce this move. First, what does this mean for the beards of Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd, as well as the mustache of Cal Clutterbuck?

Next, where does current GM Garth Snow stand? He’s been running the show since 2006 and has a contract for at least four more seasons. The team has made the playoffs only four times during his tenure and advanced out of the first round once. The fan base demanded change once this season went off the rails, with billboards purchased in Brooklyn calling for Snow’s firing. During an end-of-season press conference in April, Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky said Snow and head coach Doug Weight would be staying for now, but that he would be “evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations.”

The next question is the biggest and that has to do with Tavares. He’s said time and time again that he wants to re-sign, but hasn’t inked an extension and hasn’t given any indication what factors would sway him one way or the other. A new arena on Long Island is coming. But is this change in management and whatever Lamoriello told him in their chat enough to convince him to not explore free agency and commit to staying with the franchise? Only time will tell. But this change could be a good first step forward for the franchise.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.