SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – When the free agency period opened, the top priority for the San Jose Sharks was upgrading their blue line with a player capable of filling a hole on the third pair and playing many different roles.
General manager Doug Wilson struck quickly on Friday, signing free agent defenseman David Schlemko to a four-year contract worth a reported $8.4 million.READ MORE: Hiker Captures Moment She Thought She Might Die on Video, Before Search Crews Rescue Her
“His versatility is really important,” Wilson said. “He can play on left or right side, can play on the power play and the PK. He just fits with where we’re at and where we’re going.”
Schlemko is a skilled puck mover, which is a trait the Sharks sorely lacked on the third pair in the Stanley Cup Final loss to Pittsburgh last month. Departing free agent Roman Polak was exposed by the Penguins’ speed in the final when the Sharks lost in six games.
Schlemko will likely slot in alongside Brenden Dillon on the third pair but his ability to play both sides gives San Jose the versatility to play with Dylan DeMelo or move up to one of the top two pairs if needed.
“That was a big thing for them,” Schlemko said. “I can be a versatile player, move up and down the lineup and play against anybody and play in any situation. That’s how I feel about myself as a player and was glad that they saw that. I’m kind of lucky that a Stanley Cup contender wanted me.”
The 29-year-old Schlemko posted career highs with six goals and 13 assists in 67 games for New Jersey last season. He also played more than 18 minutes a game.READ MORE: Barrage Of Bullets That Hit Stockton Homes Caught On Video
Schlemko has 15 goals and 54 assists in 298 career games with Arizona, Dallas, Calgary and New Jersey. But he has only made the playoffs three times in eight seasons and wanted to join a contender on a long-term deal when he hit free agency.
“At this point of my career, I want to win a championship,” Schlemko said.
The other major need for the Sharks in free agency will be finding a backup goalie to replace James Reimer, who signed a five-year deal with Florida on Friday.
Wilson said he also will look to add more depth at forward with free agents Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus expected to leave as free agents. But Wilson also wants to give young players like Timo Meier, Nikolay Goldobin and Barclay Goodrow chances to compete for a role next season.
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