Selanne rejects Sharks offer

Huge loss for the Sharks. Selanne looked like he finally fit in with them towards the end of last year. Story from Oakland Tribune:

Selanne rejects Sharks for free agency

By Roger Phillips

STAFF WRITER

Teemu Selanne’s career with the San Jose Sharks appears to be nearing a premature end.

The Finnish right wing and the Sharks have failed to agree on a new contract, and unless something changes dramatically, the 31-year-old Selanne will become an unrestricted free agent Monday.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi said Saturday afternoon, sounding extremely glum. “(Friday) they gave us a number they were prepared to come back for. We weren’t prepared to meet it. He’s going to unrestricted free agency. Once a player gets out there, he seldom comes back to his original team.”

Efforts Saturday to reach Selanne’s agent, Don Baizley, were unsuccessful. Baizley did, however, leave the following message on his answering machine: “I do expect that Teemu Selanne will be an unrestricted free agent as of Monday, July 1.”

According to Lombardi, Selanne rejected the Sharks’ offer Friday, then came back with an unacceptable counterproposal.

Lombardi said the Sharks now will focus on another Baizley client, right wing Theo Fleury. Lombardi picked up the 34-year-old Fleury’s rights by trading their sixth-round pick in last week’s NHL Draft to the New York Rangers.

But, like Selanne, Fleury is poised to become an unrestricted free agent Monday. Lombardi said it would be impossible to put together an offer for Fleury in time to keep him from going on the open market.

Fleury’s worth as a player is not in question. But Fleury spent time a year ago in a substance-abuse treatment facility, and was involved in several off-ice controversies this season. In one of them, he had a physical altercation with the Sharks’ mascot during the Rangers’ visit to San Jose.

“As far as the player goes, it’s a fit,” Lombardi said. “As far as the other things, we have to do some research. I intend to investigate it.”

Fleury — who has 443 goals in 14 NHL seasons — is expected to attract interest from several teams, including Phoenix, Chicago and Calgary, where he spent the first 10-plus years of his career.

If Selanne leaves and he doesn’t sign Fleury, Lombardi acknowledged that the other premier free agents who will go on the market Monday — players such as Boston’s Bill Guerin and Chicago’s Tony Amonte — also will be out of the Sharks’ financial ballpark.

The Sharks thus might be left at the start of next season to rely on rapid development by the young players already in their organization, most notably winger Alexander Korolyuk. The 26-year-old Russian is a gifted offensive player who has struggled defensively. He appeared in only 32 games last season, scoring three goals.

Asked whether 21-year-old right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, the Sharks’ top prospect, might be ready for Selanne’s role, Lombardi said, “To think Cheechoo is going to come in and replace Teemu Selanne, I don’t think that would be fair.”

Lombardi declined to detail the differences between what Selanne is looking for and what the Sharks are willing to pay. Selanne made $9.5 million last season, but $3 million of that was paid by his former team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Selanne led the Sharks with 29 goals last season, and after they were ousted in the second round of the playoffs, he said he was willing to take a pay cut to stay in San Jose. However, to remain with the Sharks, the pay cut would have to be at least $3 million. The Sharks are believed to be willing to pay Selanne roughly $6 million a year.

When Lombardi signed Owen Nolan to a new deal two years ago, part of the arrangement was that the Sharks’ captain would be the team’s highest-paid player. His deal tops out at $6.5million a season.

Once Selanne hits the open market, such free-spending teams as the New York Rangers, Dallas and Detroit will enter the fray. Lombardi said he has little doubt Selanne will find a suitor willing to meet his price. Another team that could make a pitch for Selanne is Los Angeles. Selanne still owns a home in Orange County.

If he ultimately leaves the Sharks, they will have nothing to show for last year’s trade for Selanne besides the compensatory draft pick next year that goes with losing an unrestricted free agent. The deal with Anaheim for Selanne cost the Sharks winger Jeff Friesen and goalie Steve Shields.


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