Parting with Boyle, Havlat; Burns Back to D
SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson promised to make changes after a historic collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and he's already begun.
During a conference call Thursday, Wilson said the Sharks will part with forward Marty Havlat, won't re-sign veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, and will move Brent Burns back to defense after his first full season as a forward.
Boyle, an impending unrestricted free agent, played six seasons for San Jose after coming from the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade July 4, 2008. Boyle had 68 goals and 269 points for the Sharks, including 12 goals and 36 points this season, which was marred by a concussion.
Boyle turns 38 in July, and Wilson made it clear the Sharks will ramp up their mission to become a "younger, more aggressive team."
"I cannot say enough about the kind of guy he is, the player, everything that he brought to the table for us," Wilson said of Boyle. "An ultimate competitor. 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."
Burns was a defenseman for most of his NHL career, which began with six seasons with the Minnesota Wild. After coming to the Sharks in a trade on June 24, 2011, Burns played defense during his first full season in San Jose and part of his second. He was switched to forward on March 12, 2013, after he returned from an injury, but he'll move back to the blue line and fill the void left by Boyle's departure.
"That's why he was acquired," Wilson said of Burns. "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 (Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban). [Burns] to us is that type of ingredient that we need, so that will be taking place.
"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 (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and physicality that he brings. When he was originally moved up to forward, it was because of an injury. He was coming back and he was having trouble with certain parts of his skating."
Havlat has been a disappointment since coming to the Sharks on July 3, 2011, in a trade for forward Dany Heatley. Plagued by injuries, Havlat scored 27 goals in 127 regular-season games and two goals in eight playoff games for San Jose. He was in the lineup for one game in the series against the Kings.
Havlat has a year left on his contract, but Wilson said he has options to remove him from the roster.
Sharks majority owner Hasso Plattner on Wednesday released a statement expressing his disappointment in losing the Western Conference First Round series to the Kings after building a 3-0 lead. It was the fourth time an NHL team had lost such a lead.
Plattner supported Wilson's recommendation to bring back coach Todd McLellan and his staff and the GM's plan to improve the team.
Wilson confirmed associate coach Larry Robinson will return for a third season.
"I may even expand his role in different areas, as his input and his viewings of things in the last couple of years is of great value in many areas of our organization," Wilson said. "We value Larry."
Wilson said offseason changes will be coming to the front office and the roster. He said no Sharks player is untouchable and that those who have no-trade provisions in his contract have some "flexibility and [trade] windows."
"This is a team that's accomplished quite a bit over the last decade, but regular-season success has not gotten us to that ultimate success that we all talk about," Wilson said. "We haven't gotten to that level. We've had seven or eight 100-point seasons, we've had three final-four appearances, we've had 20 playoff rounds. That all sounds nice, and the players and coaches deserve credit for that, but we have not gotten to where we need to get to. And I think to do that, you have to take one step backwards to be in a position to go two steps forward."
Wilson declined to talk about specific contracts, but did say he has reached out to goaltender Alex Stalock, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"What I love about Alex is that's the type of guy you want on your team," Wilson said. "His journey, what he's gone through, how he competes. That's part of the identity of when I talk about some of these younger players. They've all gone through some challenges. That's the type of fortitude you want, so when you get in situations and games they can reflect back on that. Alex has that in spades. He's a special kid."
Would Stalock, who overcame a career-threatening leg laceration, have a chance to be the No. 1 goaltender next season if he re-signs?
"Every one of our young players will be given the chance to take whatever role they want," Wilson said. "That includes [Alex]. When you go through this, you have guys who are aching and begging for that opportunity. If they can come in and do it they can take it, in all positions."
Wilson acknowledged that many changes he'll make stem from the Sharks' problems transferring their success from the regular season to the playoffs when the games become grittier. He said the Sharks abandoned their tough, north-south style of play after building the series lead against the Kings.
"You have to be very cognizant of what's winning in the League now," Wilson said. "We got beat by a team that re-established their game and they stuck with it. We were good for two, 2 1/2 games, and then we wavered and our belief system in our game was not there. You can look at that systemically, you can look at it personnel-wise, but the fact is we beat ourselves.
"Completely different than a year ago where it was a different type of series," he said of the Sharks' loss to the Kings in the second round in 2013. "That's why this one to me resonates deeper and it may lead into some of the changes that we may talk about going forward. As a GM I've got to do what I've got to do in the next while. I can't completely share everything for obvious reasons because I've got to deal with other teams."
Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Correspondent