February 1, 2011; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson (left) presents center Patrick Marleau (12) with a silver hockey stick to commemorate his 1000th NHL game before the game against the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

With The Sharks Still Standing Pat, Is Wilson Doing His Job?


Apologies for my absence on the site last week, I was traveling back from Ireland and got caught up in plane delays, buses, and an annoying Italian guy who spilled wine on my seat on a ten-hour flight. If it makes you feel any better, I’m as sore as a Vancouver Canucks fan after the playoffs. 

Well, maybe not that sore.


With Nash out of the way, the floodgates were supposed to burst open, and UFAs were expected to be moved quicker than a puck off of Ryane Clowe’s stick from the bench. The reality of the CBA negotiations appears to be sinking in though, as GMs and players seem to be focused on securing a new agreement to salvage as much of the 2012-13 season as possible. The last thing the league needs right now is another lockout, meaning big names like Shane Doan, Bobby Ryan, and Roberto Luongo may have to wait until a new CBA deal is in place before being moved.


Big names aside though, it may be hard for some Sharks fans to watch GM Doug Wilson sit on his hands and watch teams like Dallas and Anaheim fill up their roster with solid wingers and defensemen. Wilson made his biggest splash with signing Adam Burish, but with reports that Wilson had interest in players like Shea Weber, he may still be on the lookout for an upgrade. I believe he’s playing the system perfectly at the moment.


Here’s why.


Amid the wake of the CBA and Rick Nash, this free agency period has been somewhat crazed. There seem to be two types of GMs at the moment. GM A is taking advantage of the potential lockout and paying absurd amounts to lock up players in case a season isn’t played. Colorado’s Greg Sherman and Dallas’ Joe Nieuwendyk are prime examples of managers who are paying promising and older players like P.A. Parenteau and Ray Whitney absurd amounts (4 yr/$16 mil and 2 yr/$9 mil, respectively) in a panic, ensuring these players don’t have time to mull over their options during a locked out season. GMs like Chuck Fletcher (Minnesota) and Paul Holmgrem (Philadelphia) are taking this even further, offering 10+ year, $100 mil+ contracts and offer sheets to lock up players for good.


GM B, on the other hand, is watching and waiting. While they may not get big names, they’re certainly not going to overpay based on anxiety and uncertainty, nor are they going to lure uncertain players into making choices they’ll regret a few years down the line and have it affect their play. Even if a GM locks a player up using loopholes in the current CBA,  other obstacles such as cap space, injuries, and trades still factor into that player’s career. Loading a contract is a throw of the dice for both the player and the team he’s signing with, and more often than not, it doesn’t pay off.


Put yourself in the shoes of a player- rather than bounce between teams at $2-3 million a year and face uncertainty every three or four years, why not sign a multi-year contract that pays you the most money up front, and security that no matter who you’re traded to, you’ll never have to sign another contract again?


Many people don’t realize that just because a player is locked up for 10+ years, their contract is still like any other contract- for sale, and tradable. As evidenced with Nash, when you have a franchise player who wants to be moved, finding a suitor willing to take a $7.8 million cap hit and lose players and prospects in the process is a hard deal to swing, even if you’re getting a talented winger like Nash. And, like the new Ranger, most players request trades near the middle or second half of their contract, making it even harder to sell a player past his prime. Granted, GMs plan for that. That’s why Zach Parise is making $12 million the next two seasons, then watching his contract dwindle down each year following, making only $1 million his final year. This lowers his cap hit down to $7.5 million a year, meaning even though he’s making $12 million next year, he’ll only be counted as a $7.5 million cap hit. While it works at the beginning, six years down the line when your “star” player requests a trade, what team is going want to absorb a +30-year-old with a cap hit of $7.5 million? You’re going to get a lot less in return, even if they’re still producing. Signing a multi-year contract a la Parise is essentially gambling with the careers of your players, as well as your franchise.


For now, Wilson is doing right by focusing on ridding the league of front-loaded deals and contracts in the next CBA. With a healthy Martin Havlat and newly acquired BRAD STUART, the Sharks are still very much a playoff team. Wilson’s main concern should be shoring up the penalty kill, but he’ll more than likely wait until after a CBA is in place before making any big moves.


In fact, don’t expect him to make any big moves or signings until later in the year. Look at the Joe Thornton trade- that happened in November. Wilson is going to stay out of the spotlight to avoid overpaying players, and let his current roster, now healthy, test the waters before making adjustments. If there’s going to be a big move, it’s going to be a trade, and it more than likely won’t happen until after the 20-game mark of the season.



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