Published November 20, 2014
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Sharks had their sights set on Logan Couture in the 2007 Entry Draft, but they knew he'd be long gone before their turn arrived at No. 28 in the first round.
So general manager Doug Wilson went to work. He traded forward Mark Bell and goalie Vesa Toskala to Toronto for the Maple Leafs' first- and second-round picks -- Nos. 13 and 44, respectively -- and a fourth-rounder in 2009. Then he swapped those first- and second-round picks to St. Louis for the No. 9 choice and drafted Couture.
Three years later, Couture is a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy after a spectacular rookie season.
"Our scouts do a lot of work identifying the players that they want," Wilson said Monday during a pre-draft press conference. "You don't always have picks where those players may fall, so you may have to move some picks to move to some areas to get the players. ... We'd rather identify the guys we really want and move to go get them. It's like fishing. Where are the fish that we want? So that's our policy. But the draft also involves a lot of trade discussions, and sometimes the trade discussions involve draft picks. So there's a lot going on at that time."
In 2005, Wilson traded up four spots to grab forward Devin Setoguchi with the No. 8 pick. Last year, the Sharks stood pat at No. 28 and chose forward Charlie Coyle.
"Last year we picked Charlie Coyle, who we think was a very good value pick at that spot, and we think there will be good players available this year, but we've moved up to get Couture and Setoguchi in the past," Wilson said. "I think you know our history there."
In the month since San Jose lost to Vancouver in the Western Conference Finals, Wilson has been busy preparing for the draft and the free-agent market, which opens July 1. He already has begun shuffling his roster and coaching staff.
Wilson said veterans Scott Nichol, Jamal Mayers and Niclas Wallin won't be re-signed after they become unrestricted free agents July 1. Wallin already has signed with a team in the Swedish Elite League.
"Nicky Wallin is going to go back to Sweden," Wilson said. "That's his family's choice, and you've got to respect that. Jamal Mayers and Scott Nichol requested for family reasons that I make a decision there, and we'll be going a different direction with those two players, also."
Nichol and Mayers both played on the Sharks' fourth line, and the team has a handful of young players who appear ready to take over their roles, including Andrew Desjardins and Jamie McGinn.
Nichol played two seasons for the Sharks after signing with them as a free agent. He was one of the team's top performers in the face-off circle and lived up to his reputation as an undersized but gritty agitator. He scored 8 goals and had 18 assists in his two seasons in San Jose.
"Scotty, he epitomizes everything about this game," Wilson said. "Paid his dues in the minors. He works hard, he's a professional. We have a lot of depth down the middle. I wanted to tell him up front that we were going in a different direction. We've got Desjardins, who came in and played in the playoffs, is a very similar type player, who paid his dues.
"I've already called a couple teams on (Nichol's) behalf. He has a love for the game. I think he can still play."
Mayers, another free-agent acquisition, is gone after just one season with the Sharks, during which he scored 3 goals and added 11 assists. Wallin came to the Sharks in February 2010 from Carolina in a trade-deadline deal. In 97 games with the Sharks, he totaled 3 goals and 7 assists. This year he was paired with Ian White, another Shark who will become an unrestricted free agent unless he signs a new contract with San Jose prior to July 1.
Wilson said he expects Justin Braun, among other young Sharks defensemen, to help fill the void next season on the blue line. Then there are potential trade targets, as well as free agents.
"I think you'll see an addition on our defense," Wilson said. "We have people that we like that we've targeted for a while. If and when they become available we'll be poised to do that. ... We're trying to build this team. The final day to build this team will be the trade deadline next year."
Wilson said he's been talking to the agents for all of his players headed for free agency. Kyle Wellwood, Ben Eager, White and Kent Huskins are scheduled to be unrestricted, while Setoguchi, Benn Ferriero and McGinn can become restricted.
Setoguchi is the key name -- he's scored at least 20 goals in each of the past three seasons.
"Let's face it. In this business right now, the most sought-after things are defensemen, centermen and goal scoring, and he's certainly shown what he's capable of," Wilson said. "The last half of the year I think he scored 15 goals, scored some big goals in the playoffs. He scored 31 goals for us in the past. You expect your young players to get to the next level. Having said that, he's probably a very attractive player to a lot of teams that are looking for (goal scoring). He's an important guy for us. We have to get a deal that makes sense for us, for him and fits into our team-building concept, also. I think we're making some progress there."
Trent Yawney, Sharks coach Todd McLellan's top assistant, also is leaving the team after three seasons to pursue a head coaching job in the American Hockey League.
Yawney, a former Chicago Blackhawks head coach, said he made the decision to leave the Sharks.
"I want to be a head coach in the NHL," Yawney said. "I was always told by people that I respect that if you want to be an NHL head coach you've got to go coach in the American league. And I've done that, and it worked out for me, so I felt that it's probably in my best interests to go that route again."
Yawney coached Norfolk of the AHL for five seasons, and he used that job as a springboard to the Blackhawks job. He went 33-55-15 with the Blackhawks during a stint that spanned the entire 2005-06 season and the first 21 games of the 2006-07 season.
"Trent has done a very good job with us, and I've always promised that I would help in any way I could to get him back to being a head coach in the NHL," Wilson said. "He was a head coach in Chicago. He has come to me and said he thinks that is the best career choice for him, and I support him 100 percent. He's a good man and a good friend. I've given him permission to talk to four or five teams that have head-coaching opportunities available."
McLellan has yet to decide how he will fill the void on his coaching staff, whether by promoting in-house or hiring from outside the organization. Sharks assistant Jay Woodcroft could be in line for an increased role.