Programming note: For all the day’s sports news, tune in to SportsNet Central tonight and every night at 6, 10:30 p.m. and midnight on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN JOSE – Sharks general manager Doug Wilson laid out the first few twists and turns on his offseason roadmap on Thursday in a conference call with the local media.
Not returning will be longtime defenseman Dan Boyle, who spent the previous six seasons on the Sharks’ blue line and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer among defensemen (10th overall). Boyle, 37 and a pending unrestricted free agent, will likely get the multiple-year deal he’s seeking from another NHL club.
Marty Havlat, whose tenure in San Jose has been decidedly unproductive since arriving in 2011-12, will also not return, despite the 33-year-old having one year left on his current contract. A compliance buyout is the likeliest scenario for the disappointing forward, who was scratched in six of seven playoff games and does not look remotely like player he was several years ago.
Finally, Brent Burns will return to the blue line in time for the start of the 2014-15 season, assuming the 29-year-old is still on the roster.
Wilson spoke publicly for the first time since shortly after the Sharks were eliminated by Los Angeles in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to fritter away a 3-0 series lead.
“Our relationship with our fans has been strained and we’ve got to go and re-earn that trust,” Wilson said. “We’ve got some action items and some stuff we have to do.”
Letting Boyle walk was likely the most emotional decision Wilson has had to make since the end of the season.
“I cannot say enough about the kind of guy he is, the player, everything that he brought to the table for us. An ultimate competitor,” Wilson said. “We’re going to go forward transitioning this team to the young players on the back end, but first and foremost, there is a great appreciation for Dan.”
Although he is arguably the best defenseman to ever wear a teal sweater, Boyle had a difficult season after suffering a head injury in mid-October. He later admitted he returned to the lineup too soon, missing just seven games. Boyle finished with 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points in 75 games and a -8 rating, worst among the team’s blueliners.
As for Havlat, who dealt with numerous injuries throughout his tenure in San Jose but never really seemed committed to playing the way the coaching staff wanted him to, Wilson said: “On a different note, I’ve informed Marty Havlat that he will not be back next season.”
Should the Sharks buy out Havlat, his $5 million salary cap hit would not count against the NHL’s 2014-15 limit, per the recent collective bargaining agreement. Havlat is due $6 million in actual dollars for next season, according to CapGeek.com.
Burns put up good numbers in his first full NHL season as a forward, scoring 48 points in 69 games (22g, 26a). He was, however, a streaky player, at one point going 19 games between goals and adding just two goals and one assist in seven playoff games while playing on Joe Thornton’s wing.
The Sharks acquired Burns in the summer of 2011 from Minnesota, with the thought being he would take over the number one defenseman role for Boyle at some point. He had an inconsistent 2011-12 season on the blue line getting acclimated to his new surroundings and coaching staff, and offseason sports hernia surgery sidelined him for the start of the shortened 2013 season before Todd McLellan shifted him to the front lines in March of that year.
Wilson mentioned names like Montreal’s P.K. Subban and the Kings’ Drew Doughty when discussing his thought process for moving Burns back to defense.
“That size, the strength, the shot – you just saw Montreal with a guy that’s a bit of a wild stallion go and make plays,” Wilson said, referring to Subban. “Burnzie, to us, is that type of ingredient that we need, so that will be taking place.”
“He was acquired as a defenseman. When you take a look at that type of dynamic on the back end, guys that move the puck up, shoot the puck on the power play, it creates a tough matchup. And, the size and physicality that he brings. … To me, our commitment and our need is him back as a defenseman.”
Whether the moves announced Thursday are just a precursor to a major rebuild of the roster is yet to be determined, but Wilson indicated no one on the team is off-limits, despite an abundance of no-trade clauses sprinkled throughout. That includes Thornton, the captain, and winger Patrick Marleau, who signed three-year contract extensions in January.
“When you enter into this type of phase, no options should be off the table,” Wilson said. “You explore everything.”
* * *
Wilson also revealed the team’s postseason injury list, but was adamant that it not be used as an excuse for the postseason flame out.
“I guarantee you that their team, if we had beat them, would have had guys in similar situations,” Wilson said, referring to the Kings.
Here is the complete list, per the general manager:
Jason Demers – fractured foot
Brent Burns – torn thumb ligament
Tomas Hertl – right knee “wasn’t all the way back” from original injury
Patrick Marleau – torn wrist ligament, oblique tear
Joe Pavelski – torn labrum in shoulder (has since had surgery)
Raffi Torres – had knee injected to play in the playoffs, underwent postseason “cleanup procedure”
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – upper body injury, knee injury