SAN JOSE SHARKS ANNOUNCED SIGNING OF RW JAMAL MAYERS WEDNESDAY
Over the last two days the Sharks have announced the signings of unrestricted free agent right wing Jamal Mayers, and the last remaining restricted free agents Steven Zalewski and defenseman Derek Joslin. “Jamal is a fast, physical, team-first player who brings the ingredients we were looking for to this role,” San Jose Sharks EVP/GM Doug Wilson said of Mayers. “He is an extremely fit athlete who can kill penalties and we think he will mesh well with our group of forwards.”
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound winger registered 3 goals, 14 points and 131 penalty minutes in 71 games split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Calagary Flames last season. St. Louis radio host and Hockeybuzz.com columnist Andy Strickland broke news of “Jammer” coming to San Jose on Tuesday, and noted that he signed a one-year $600,000 contract for an expected fourth line role alongside center Scott Nichol. In an email to Sharkspage, Stickland described Mayers as a player “who will provide a good dressing room presence, and stick up for his teammates. He can kill penalties as well as take important defensive zone face-offs.”
Mayers was traded from the last place team in the Eastern Conference, to a Western Conference Calgary Flames squad with more than its share of problems. Alleged locker room issues forced former Sharks head coach and current Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter to trade defenseman Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie to Toronto January 31st for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers. One day later, Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust were traded to the New York Rangers for underachieving forwards Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalík.
After ceding the eighth and final playoff spot to the Colorado Avalanche, and finishing with a horrible 7-3 performance to end the season on the road in Vancouver, Mayers stepped in front of reporters and in front of the media criticism last April. “We’ve got a lot of character people in this room, we came up short, and the responsibility lies with us to get better and make sure this never happens again,” Mayers told the Calgary Herald. Flames GM Darryl Sutter offered Mayers a contract to remain in Calgary, but the unrestricted 12-year veteran did not re-sign.
Instead he will join a potent San Jose team with a clearly defined role. The Sharks will look for an energy element along with Scott Nichol on the fourth line, look for Mayers to absorb some of the penalty kill and faceoff duty lost with the departure of Jed Ortmeyer and Manny Malhotra, and look for him to ramp up the intensity to another level or three should the Sharks make the playoffs. More of a middleweight than a true heavyweight, Mayers did tie a career high with 15 fighting majors last season. Jason Plank offered an excellent statistical analysis of Jamal Mayers at Fear the Fin, noting that quality of competition, penalty killing, and penalties taken vs penalties drawn were all areas of recent concern. One has to factor in the two teams he did play for, the system-wide problems they struggled with, and his regular season and playoff experience against San Jose during his long St. Louis Blues tenure.
Manny Malhotra played for the Sharks last year at less than 50% of his 2008-09 contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although he expected to remain in San Jose for a longer term, Malhotra’s subsequent 3-year $7.5 million deal with Vancouver more than rewarded his well rounded contributions. Mayers took a similar pay cut for fourth line duty in San Jose, signing for less than 50% of his $1.3 million 2009-10 salary with Toronto and Calgary. With the possibility of lining up two rookies alongside Scott Nichol on the fourth line, GM Doug Wilson opted instead to bring in a veteran grinder who can skate and play the body. Last year during training camp, Wilson added veteran experience bringing in Jed Ortmeyer, Manny Malhotra, and tryout Dan Hinote. Hinote did not make the team after 3 preseason appearances.
In addition to adding veteran experience, the Sharks also went a little off the board adding youth to the roster. Very few print or online pundits would have predicted Jason Demers and Benn Ferriero making the 2009-10 opening night roster. There was fairly in-depth analysis of the Sharks defensive prospects online during the rookie tournament and training camp, but Demers came into training camp with very little hype. Whether a Cameron MacIntyre, Steven Zalewski, Andrew Desjardins, Frazer McLaren or Brandon Mashinter will join a Logan Couture (25 NHL games played) or a Jamie McGinn (94 NHL games played) on on the 2010-11 opening night roster in Stockholm will remain to be seen.
More Shark notes:
While it was reported last week, the Sharks confirmed today that Worcester’s second leading scorer (22G, 40A, 78GP) Steven Zalewski signed a one-year contract. The Sharks also reported that the last remaining restricted free agent, defenseman Derek Joslin, also will return to the organization with a one-year contract. A polished, puck-moving defenseman Joslin registered 3 assists in 24 games played with the San Jose Sharks last season, and 5 goals and 27 assists in 55 games played for the Worcester Sharks. Joslin took a small step back on the defensive depth chart last season, but he is more than capable of earning a spot on the NHL roster out of training camp, or serving as a depth replacement.
Star Tribune reporter Michael Russo reported today that UFA Vancouver Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell received a clean bill of health after taking physicals from several NHL teams. “The former Wild defenseman, I’m told, actually could sign a contract with performance bonuses because he spent 100 days on injured reserve last year — including the playoffs… I bet it’ll be for a base of $1 or $1.5 million on a one-year deal plus bonuses,” Russo said. The Sharks have over $3.1 million in cap space with a full NHL compliment of players according to capgeek.com. A $1 million or $1.5 million contract would certainly fit into the Sharks salary cap structure, but any large scale performance bonuses could set up the Sharks for a Chicago Blackhawks-esque penalty after the season. They could be looking to sign a one-year deal to improve a player’s profile, or could wait up until the trade deadline to trade for a player under more favorable circumstances. According to Michael Russo and the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, Washington and San Jose are possibilities for Willie Mitchell’s services. Sportsnet.ca reported Monday that Mitchell narrowed down his choice to 4 teams: Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose and Washington.
Two notes related to Monday’s Sharks/Oilers affiliation press conference with the Stockton Thunder — Stockton head coach Matt Thomas said he could confirm one NHL contracted goaltender assignment from the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks. Highly regarded Finnish prospect Harri Sateri may be slated to remain in Finland, but two other possibilities for Stockton could include Thomas Heemskerk or recent collegiate free agent signee Carter Hutton. The San Jose Sharks also severed their ECHL affiliation with the ECHL Kalamazoo K-Wings. “The opportunity to have an affiliation in Stockton that is geographically and economically beneficial was hard to pass up,” assistant GM/VP Wayne Thomas said.
San Jose’s first round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has been impressive at USA Hockey’s evaluation camp. Center Charlie Coyle was named to the U.S. under-20 roster, one of 29 first or second round NHL Entry Draft selections to be invited to compete from July 30th to August 7th. The USA roster was trimmed from 42 to 28 on August 2nd after three scrimmages, but Coyle remained on the squad. In the first 2 games against Sweden and Finland at Lake Placid, Team USA is 2-0. Coyle had the game winning goal in a 6-3 stomping of Team Sweden on Tuesday. Team USA will face Sweden again on Friday (1PM PT), and Finland in the final game on Saturday (1PM PT). Games are available via pay-per-view on USAHockey.FASTHockey.com, full camp coverage is available via usahockey.com.
In a Top-10 list on TheHockeyNews.com, Jamie Ross named former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov as the top NHL player to ever leave the NHL for Russia. This blog reached a similar conclusion here.
[Update] Welcome to San Jose Mr. Mayers, 12-Year NHL Veteran Inks One-Year Deal with Sharks – SJsharks.com.
[Update2] The Workhorse Goaltender – Mile High Hockey.