We're exactly a week away from the opening of the free-agency period in the NHL and two marquee free agents have been taken off the market in one shot. Thursday morning, the San Jose Sharks announced that they've signed Patrick Marleau(notes) to a four-year, $27.6 million deal and Joe Pavelski(notes) to a four-year, $16 million deal. Marleau was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, while Pavelski would have been restricted.
Unlike with many contracts these days, the deals are not front-loaded and are instead spread out evenly over the four years.
The decision earlier this week to let goaltender Evgeni Nabokov(notes) walk was a sign that the Sharks were going to try hard to retain Marleau with the freed-up money that wasn't going to their former netminder. Gengeral manager Doug Wilson said this week he wanted both Marleau and Pavelski back and would have new contracts for them later in the week.
We had Marleau as our No. 1 free-agent center on Monday, and Pavelski is the type of young talent that could have attracted an offer sheet if he had made it to July 1. It was unsure how different this Sharks team might look come training camp, but at the moment, the core group of Marleau, Pavelski, Joe Thornton(notes), Dany Heatley(notes) and Dan Boyle(notes) will be back for another season.
According to CapGeek, who has updated the San Jose salary cap situation, the Sharks are now close to $48 million divided among 14 players with a little over $12 million to play with. As with a lot of teams in the current NHL, a large chunk of their cap is tied into their core players. San Jose has a little over $32 million tied up between Marleau, Pavelski, Thornton, Heatley and Boyle for next season. Thornton is a free agent after next season, while the other four are locked up until after the 2013-14 season.
Now with Marleau and Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec(notes) signed, the crop of free-agent centers consists of names like Matthew Lombardi(notes), Saku Koivu(notes), Vinny Prospal(notes), Eric Belanger(notes) and Matt Cullen(notes). All of them should be happy to hear about the Marleau and Plekanec signings as their bank accounts could be rising in a matter of weeks. As with any free-agent frenzy period, there's always a team that has a need at center and always a GM who overpays.