TORONTO After a summer of turnover in which the Sharks found themselves in need of depth forwards, they turned to a number of players to compete for open positions on their bottom two lines.
One of those guys was Brad Winchester. The 30-year-old journeyman forward was signed to a professional tryout in early September, made a good impression in training camp, and signed a one-year, 725,000 contract just before the start of the regular season.
Its an experiment thats worked out. Winchester has played in all but one game for the Sharks, contributed six goals and four assists, and is second on the team in penalty minutes with 77. Hes shown a willingness to stand up for his teammates, too, which never goes unnoticed in an NHL locker room.
Winchester has played primarily on the fourth line, but has also taken some top line shifts when coach Todd McLellan either likes the way Winchester is skating or wants to send a message to others. That includes Tuesday in Columbus, when Winchester skated for more than 13 minutes for just the third time in a 6-3 Sharks loss.
My goal was to come in and contribute to this team. Play my style of game, and be a great teammate and be a part of something thats special, Winchester said on Wednesday in Toronto.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Winchester was asked if he thinks he's earned a chance to stay in San Jose past this season. I hope so. I love San Jose. Its a fantastic organization, he said.
Doug Wilson, however, prefers to wait until the year ends before discussing such matters.
What we try and do is get away from any distractions from this team. This is all about trying to win, being ready for tomorrow, and those things. Players know how we try and do business. Theres lots of time at the end of the year, Wilson said.
That doesnt mean Wilson isnt pleased with how Winchester has accounted for himself, though.
Hes played very well. He came in with no guarantees, earned his spot on the team, and has played well every night, the general manager said. Now, the most important time of the year is this point going forward.
Regardless of the way the season ends, Winchester is open to wearing a Sharks uniform for more than just one season.
If that opportunity arose I would definitely be interested in that, for sure," he said.
Practice canceled: The Sharks canceled Fridays practice in Toronto, opting for a workout at the team hotel and an earlier flight to Nashville.
The Sharks visit the Predators on Saturday and Wild on Sunday before hosting the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.