“Discretion is the better part of valor” should be every general manager’s motto during free agency.
Luckily for San Jose Sharks fans, for the most part, Team Teal has avoided the worst of unrestricted free agency.
There are no David Clarksons or Bobby Holiks lurking here.
But try as they might, the Sharks haven’t avoided being silly season victims.
Earlier this week, we celebrated the best UFA signings in San Jose Sharks history. Now, we avert our eyes from the worst…
5) Paul Martin
For the first two years of Martin’s four-year, $19.4 million dollar contract — signed on July 1, 2015 — he was one of the best UFA acquisitions in Sharks history.
His defensive partner, Brent Burns, was a Norris Trophy finalist in 2015-16 and the winner the following year. Martin and Burns were practically stapled together: Martin played a whopping 2296:42 minutes at 5-on-5 with Burns from 2015-17. After Burns, Martin’s most frequent defensive partner in this timespan was Justin Braun at 170:06.
“I go off the page a little bit and he reads it early and closes it down,” Burns told The Mercury News in 2017. “I think that’s one of his greatest strengths is the way he reads plays and sees what’s happening.”
However, in the summer of 2017, the 36-year-old underwent ankle surgery, and because of age or injury or both, was never the same.
In January 2018, San Jose waived Martin. There were no takers. At the end of the season, San Jose bought out the last year of his contract.
Martin’s is still the largest UFA contract ever doled out by the Sharks — a one-man testament to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of spending big on free agents.
4) Michal Handzus
The San Jose Sharks hoped Handzus would be a finishing touch to their quest for a Stanley Cup.
After two back-to-back Western Conference Finals appearances, San Jose signed the 34-year-old to a two-year, $5 million dollar contract on July 1, 2011 to be the centerpiece of a championship-caliber third line.
Instead, Handzus became a finishing touch for another team’s title.
The slow-footed Slovakian never looking comfortable under Todd McLellan, enduring multiple healthy scratches before being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in April 2013 for a 2013 fourth-round pick.
At the time of the trade, Handzus had just two points in 28 games for San Jose. He discovered the fountain of youth in Chicago, notching 17 points in 34 regular season and playoff contests for the 2013 champs.
3) Bob Rouse
Rouse was a true winner.
The 34-year-old defenseman had come off consecutive Stanley Cup championships and sixth straight Western Conference Finals appearances when the San Jose Sharks inked him to a two-year, $4.5 million dollar contract on July 13, 1998.
“I don’t think you could bring in a better example for our younger defensemen,” general manager Dean Lombardi noted. (McKeon, Ross. “Sharks tighten defense with signing of vet Rouse.” The San Francisco Examiner, July 14, 1998.)
Instead, on January 5, 2000, the aging Rouse became the first UFA buy-out in club history, an undignified end to an underrated career.
2) Adam Burish
Burish was thrilled to go from a 10th-place Dallas Stars squad to a perennial post-season squad like the Sharks.
“I miss that suffering, that kind of pain, playing tired, playing hurt,” Burish said of playoff action, after agreeing to a four-year, $7.4 million dollar contract with San Jose on July 1, 2012. “As crazy as that sounds, I miss that.”
Burish couldn’t have guessed the world of hurt that awaited him in the Bay Area.
In his first season, Burish broke his hand in the post-season. In October 2013, he underwent back surgery. Later that season, Burish mangled his finger blocking a shot. To add insult to injury, in 2014-15, the Sharks waived the fourth-line grinder twice, before buying out the final year of his contract.
1) Mikkel Boedker
Boedker might be the most disappointing UFA signing in San Jose Sharks history.
Boedker was just 26 and coming off a 51-point campaign when San Jose signed him to a four-year, $16 million dollar contract on July 1, 2016. The winger was supposed to help put the defending Western Conference champions over the top.
“Mikkel’s tremendous speed is his best attribute and he has the ability to back off defenders with his combination of quickness and soft hands,” GM Doug Wilson gushed. “We think he will thrive with our group and look forward to him joining our team.”
Instead, Boedker put up four points in his first 27 games in teal, and by January, he was a healthy scratch.
In June 2018, Doug Wilson managed to send Boedker, Julius Bergman, and a 2020 sixth-round pick to Ottawa for Mike Hoffman, Cody Donaghey, and a 2020 fifth-round pick, before spinning Hoffman and a 2018 seventh-round pick to Florida for a 2019 second-round pick and 2018 fourth-round and fifth-round picks.
So all’s well that ends well!
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