SAN JOSE –- In his annual pre-draft media session, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson revealed that pending unrestricted free agents John Scott and Scott Hannan would not be returning to the club next season.
The two others set to become free agents on July 1 –- Matt Irwin and Antti Niemi -– were not completely ruled out. That was somewhat surprising in that neither is expected to return, particularly Niemi, who has been with the club for five seasons with mixed results. The Sharks are already reportedly searching for another goalie, and were recently linked to Rangers backup Cam Talbot.
“We haven't come to closure on that,” Wilson said of Niemi and Irwin. “It's advantageous maybe to them and to us to have it play out a little bit longer."
Wilson implied both Niemi and Irwin would like to return.
"They would like to be here, but unrestricted free agency is a two-way street,” he said. “It has to be a match for us. But, would they like to be here? I think they've answered those questions publicly. It's just whether it fits for us and them and what the alternatives are for all parties involved."
Niemi was ambiguous about his desire to remain with the Sharks on April 15, saying he’d “probably” want to return if the Sharks wanted him back.
“Yeah, we’ll see what happens,” he said, also admitting that his 2014-15 season had “too many ups and down.”
Regarding Scott, Wilson made that decision in conjunction with incoming head coach Peter DeBoer. Scott was a popular teammate in a dressing room that has had some issues in recent years, and there are still some suggestions of it being fractured, but Scott simply wasn’t going to play enough to take up a roster spot.
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After bringing Scott in to help with the transition to a younger roster, creating what Wilson called a “safe environment,” the Sharks would like to have a more skilled fourth line under DeBoer.
“Really good team man, quality guy,” Wilson said of Scott. “But it comes down to, to be able to do that job the coach has to play you.”
What does Wilson want to see from the fourth line next year?
“You want to have some [penalty killing] ability, obviously with that being an important part of winning in this league. You want to have some energy. You want to have a level of compete, and grit.
“The game has changed, it’s get the puck out of your zone. The best defenses get the puck out of your zone and play in the other team’s zone. Think about that with the third and fourth line, the same type of thing. That’s how we look at it.”
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The two most notable pending restricted free agents on the roster are forward Melker Karlsson and defenseman Brenden Dillon.
Wilson was asked if there could be any potential hiccups in extending those players, both of which figure to be in the team’s plans for the next several years.
“No, I expect it to go…we’re advancing on those right now,” Wilson said.
Dillon went through a prickly negotiation with the Dallas Stars last summer, not agreeing to a one-year deal until Oct. 2, and told Vancity Buzz he's hopeful that it won't take that long this offseason.
“I had some really good talks at the end of the year with the GM, Doug Wilson, and my agent has been in contact with them since the end of the season,” Dillon said. “We still have June, July, [and] August before training camp, but hopefully things get done sooner than later.”
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Wilson didn’t mention any potential names for DeBoer’s coaching staff, but he expects it to be in place prior to development camp, which begins on July 6.
“I talked to Peter quite a bit. He's identified the ingredients and people that he wants. We should have that close out in probably the next couple of weeks, prior to the development camp,” Wilson said.
One name that came up was former Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, and if he may be open to returning to the club in some fashion.
“We’ll be talking to Nabby in the near future,” Wilson said, without offering any more hints as to what role Nabokov might play.
One name that's now off the table is DeBoer's former assistant in New Jersey, Dave Barr, who was just added to Buffalo's staff. There had been speculation in late May that Barr would join DeBoer with the Sharks.