Programming note: Coverage of Sharks-Wild begins at 7:00 PT with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California.
SAN JOSE – One is a veteran defenseman that spent the entirety of his early career in a Sharks uniform, and a player that will provide depth and some size on the blue line.
The other is one of the most reviled players in recent franchise history.
Raffi Torres, of course, is the latter. The Sharks sent the third round pick they acquired from the New York Rangers on Tuesday for Ryane Clowe to Phoenix, in exchange for Torres, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s expected to arrive in San Jose on Thursday.
Defenseman Scott Hannan, who spent his first eight years in the NHL with the Sharks from 1999-2007, was acquired from Nashville for a conditional seventh round pick. It would become a sixth round pick if he plays in a single playoff game, and he, too, has an expiring contract.
Regarding Torres, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said the 31-year-old could help fill the void left by Clowe’s departure.
“That’s exactly what you want. You hate playing against him; you want him on your side,” Wilson said. “He can skate, people know when he’s on the ice, and he can play, too. With Ryane moving on to New York, having that physical presence I think is very important. He’s a guy that we’re all very familiar with, but he can play the game and get in there. The speed to his game is a big part of it. You want your physical presence to have speed.”
Torres was surprised by the move to a division rival.
“That definitely surprised me going to San Jose,” he said. “At the end of the day, I love playing in San Jose. It’s an electric building, it’s loud, and it’s something I think can help my game. I get energy off the crowd and that gets me excited, so I’m looking forward to it.”
There are two hits in particular that Torres is known for in the Bay Area. While playing for Edmonton in the playoffs in 2006, he hit then-Shark Milan Michalek with an elbow to the head. A few years later with Vancouver in 2011, he leveled Joe Thornton with a clean check that separated Thornton’s shoulder. The Sharks went on to lose both series.
“San Jose fans have been pretty tough on me the past couple years, but I get it,” Torres said. “It’s the way I play. Hopefully, once I start getting on the body and score a couple goals, they’ll turn into fans.”
More recently, Torres is known for his dirty check to the head of Chicago’s Marian Hossa in the playoffs last season while with Phoenix. That hit resulted in a 25-game suspension that ended his playoff run with the Coyotes, who went on the Western Conference finals. The suspension was eventually reduced to 21 games, and forced him to sit for the first eight games this season.
This year, Torres has just 13 penalty minutes in 28 games. What changed?
“Well, my bank account changed,” Torres joked. “I knew my game, prior to the suspension, was at a place...I didn’t want to end up hurting someone. My game was a little bit reckless. My problem is I get a little too caught up in the moment, and I feel like I need to go out there and throw that big hit. I’d run around, and it was deteriorating my overall game.
“I think I’m at a point now where I’m not really looking for the big hit. I’m trying to work on stick-on-puck, and taking away the puck and taking the body. I will not back down from trying to run someone over to change the momentum, I think I just do it a little more cautiously now.”
Wilson compared him to another player that has seemingly altered the way he plays after a number of suspensions.
“I think you’ve seen Matt Cooke do it in Pittsburgh, too,” Wilson said. “These guys can play the game and they can skate. They are not the three or four minute, one-dimensional players. That’s what you’re looking for. All your physical guys have to have the element of making the other people nervous.”
Hannan’s arrival will give the Sharks some insurance on the blue line, and allows San Jose to keep Brent Burns at forward, where he’s been a more effective player. Hannan has a minor neck injury, according to Wilson, but he’s expected to be ready “within the week.”
“He’s a guy coming in here to help the depth of our defense,” Wilson said. “Our guys know him very well and he’s a veteran guy that come playoff time, that’s what you’re looking for.”
Brad Stuart played with Hannan during his first stint with the Sharks.
“Good veteran guy that can step in and play an important role, I think,” Stuart said. “If you’re going to make a [playoff] run, you’ve got to have an abundance of defensemen that can play and has experience in those types of situations. He does, and it’s a good addition.”
Torres will wear uniform number 13, while Hannan will wear 27. Neither will play on Wednesday night when the Sharks continue their homestand against Minnesota.