SAN JOSE – It would appear that defenseman David Schlemko’s plan worked out flawlessly.
The 29-year-old defenseman, who inked a four-year, $8.4 million contract with San Jose on Friday, is coming off of a career year in New Jersey in which he posted 19 points in 67 games while averaging 18:39 of ice time. It was his one and only season with the Devils, after he spent most of his first seven years in the league with Arizona.
Signing with the Devils last September, and subsequently having success there, meant Schlemko garnered some interest as an unrestricted free agent.
“I felt like I was kind of always overshadowed by the [Oliver] Ekman-Larssons and [Keith] Yandles [in Arizona]. I knew I could go somewhere where I’d have an opportunity to play and kind of show my worth and just get some exposure,” Schlemko said of his year in New Jersey.
“It worked out well, it did raise my confidence, and at this point in my career I want to win a championship. … It kind of worked out perfect in every way for me and my family.”
Both Schlemko and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson indicated that at least half a dozen teams inquired about the six-foot, 190-pounder. Wilson met with Schemko’s agent twice during the window that allows teams to speak with pending free agents after the draft and before July 1.
Schlemko, a left-hander, indicated he’s comfortable playing on either side of the blue line. That would suggest that barring any more moves, he’ll slot in with Brenden Dillon on the third pair in place of Roman Polak, who will move on.
Schlemko saw a good amount of power play and penalty kill time last season in New Jersey, too, and Wilson sees him being able to play in any situation.
“Very pleased that he chose us with the ingredients that he has,” Wilson said. “He’s a puck mover, great poise with the puck, had a really good year last year, there’s speed in his game.”
“His versatility is really important…can play on the power play, the PK. He just fits with where we’re at and where we’re going. He’s the right age, too.”
The addition on defense also allows Wilson – again, barring any more moves – to keep former first round pick Mirco Mueller in the AHL for another season after the 21-year-old had an up-and-down year playing mostly with the Barracuda. Dylan DeMelo has been bumped to seventh on the depth chart, and could play more games in the minors, too, assuming the club re-signs the restricted free agent.
Regarding Mueller, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Wilson said: “Last year was a progression year. Really like the way he played the last month of the year. He was a little bit inconsistent during the season, but his last month was really good, and he’s trending the right way. We have very high expectations for him.
“Dylan DeMelo, we have really high expectations for him. You need seven, eight, nine defensemen, especially in the West with all our travel.”
Adding Schlemko also gives the Sharks some additional protection ahead of next summer’s expansion draft, in which at least one or two of their blueliners are sure to be exposed for potential selection by Las Vegas.
“We’re very well positioned for expansion,” Wilson said. “When expansion comes you’re going to have to make people available. So, yes, it’s a factor.”
In the meantime, though, the Sharks and Schlemko are both hopeful that he helps the club defend its Western Conference title.
“You’re looking to win the Stanley Cup, and they got pretty close last year,” Schlemko said. “To have four cracks at it is pretty exciting.”