March 4, 2003
Lombardi has decisions to make
By JIM MATHESON
If Owen Nolan's Irish eyes are burning a week from today because the
Sharks have moved him, what message would that send to San Jose's
other big fish -- Vincent Damphousse and Teemu Selanne -- if they're
Damphousse, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, can become an
unrestricted free agent on July 1; it's his option whether to stay on
another year for $4 million US.
Selanne, on great terms with Sharks coach Ron Wilson, his old boss
from Anaheim, signed a one-year, $6-million deal last summer, taking
less to stay in San Jose rather than move to Dallas.
If Nolan, the Sharks captain, is traded on March 11 to, say, Toronto,
for younger players because the Sharks ownership wants to slash the
team's $49-million payroll, that probably tells Damphousse and Selanne
that they're playing for tomorrow, not for today.
Nolan, who's iffy to play tonight against the Oilers because of a
badly bruised back, wasn't in any mood to talk about trade rumours on
But Damphousse, who came to the Sharks from Montreal in a March '99
deadline deal, doesn't want to hang around if the Sharks trade their
captain and get a couple of youngsters in return.
"For me, it's a wait-and-see approach," said Damphousse.
"I want the team to stay competitive for years to come, and I don't
want to go anywhere. ... That's why I have the no-trade clause.
"But if they start moving quality guys around for draft picks ... I
think a lot of our older players don't want to be on a rebuilding team.
"If they do trade Owen, I expect quality in return."
Unless the Sharks can get someone like Toronto's Nik Antropov for
Nolan, somebody they can sell to the San Jose fans, it's probably a
But GM Dean Lombardi knows he might also have to trade defenceman
Bryan Marchment and winger Adam Graves.
Damphousse, who's been the No. 1 centre in San Jose for the last four
years and has 49 points this season, is 35 and hopes to play for a few
"I'm in the last five per cent in terms of age, but I can still
compete against young guys and I still enjoy coming to the rink," said
"In all my years in San Jose they've added players trying to win the
championship, but there's new ownership and we don't know what
direction they want to take."
With so many players struggling -- Mike Ricci, goalie Evgeni Nabokov,
Graves -- and hurt -- Brad Stuart and Scott Thornton -- not to mention
the worst penalty-killing in the league, the Sharks have spun their
wheels for months.
The owners reportedly want to get down to about a $40-million payroll
Selanne, who leads San Jose with 54 points, laughed off a report last
week that said he wanted out by the deadline if the Sharks kept losing
"No way that came from me that I wanted to be traded if we're not
going to make the playoffs. It's not true," said Selanne.
"We are in Canada, so there's lots of speculation. That's OK, it's
"It (trade talk) is the best show in hockey right now," he continued.
"You always want to know who's going where. It's entertaining, as long
as you don't hear your own name on TV.
"All I know is, every time they tell you you're not getting traded ...
you are. The Sharks haven't told me a thing."
But if Nolan were traded, wouldn't that be a signal the team is
"I don't know the situation right now. I don't want to think about
it," said Selanne.
Meanwhile Nolan, who has 42 points, may be destined for the Leafs, who
struck out on Alexei Kovalev three weeks ago.
"If a player is available, the Leafs are supposed to pick them up.
That comes with the territory," said San Jose coach Ron Wilson.
"The Leafs are like the New York Yankees in baseball. If a player's
available, the player's always going to the Yankees.
"Whether they do or they don't is another story."
Of course, if the Sharks were at the top of the Western Conference,
instead of 13th, we would not be having these discussions.
So how did it get this bad for the San Jose, who finished with 99
points last year?
"The pressure of expectation can weigh you down," said Wilson. "Maybe
the team overachieved last year."