'Operation: Keep the Core' rolls on in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Captain Patrick Marleau and defenseman
Brad Stuart were among eight free agents re-signed by the San Jose Sharks on Monday.
San Jose also re-signed speedy forward Marco Sturm, enforcer
Scott Parker and minor-leaguers Garrett Stafford, Nolan Schaeffer,
Matt Carkner and Doug Murray.
San Jose has re-signed 14 of its own free agents in the last
week, keeping together most of the core from a club that enjoyed
the best season in franchise history before the NHL lockout.
Marleau, Sturm and Stuart are among the Sharks' most important
players, and general manager Doug Wilson quickly locked them up to
multiyear deals.
"The primary objective is to take care of your core group,"
Wilson said. "We don't change how we've operated for the last
couple of years. We certainly like where a lot of our own players
are at, and it's an exciting time for this group."
Marleau, who got a three-year deal, has been with the Sharks
since 1997, scoring 332 points in eight seasons. He tied his career
highs with 28 goals and 29 assists in 2003-04 while leading the
Sharks to the Western Conference finals, and he has played for
Canada in the last two world championships and the 2004 World Cup.
Sturm, who signed a two-year contract, had 41 points in 64 games
before a broken ankle ended his season in 2003-04. He has scored at
least 20 goals in each of his last three NHL seasons, and he
recovered fully from his nasty ankle injury to play professionally
in his native Germany last season.
Stuart, a key player on the Sharks' blue line since 1999, had a
career-high 39 points in 2003-04. He also agreed to a two-year
Parker, who got a one-year deal, had four points and 101 penalty
minutes in his only season with the Sharks.
Defenseman Mike Rathje _ San Jose's only significant
unrestricted free agent -- left for a lucrative five-year contract
with Philadelphia, but none of the Sharks' other key players will
depart. Forward Alex Korolyuk is going to arbitration with San
Wilson expects a lively competition in training camp for
Rathje's job among defensemen Tom Preissing, Rob Davison, Jim
Fahey, Doug Murray, Christian Ehrhoff and Carkner.
But the Sharks also won't rule out acquiring another veteran to
complement one of the NHL's youngest lineups. Earlier in the
summer, San Jose lost out in the bidding for veteran defenseman
Scott Niedermayer, who signed with Anaheim.
"Every day is a trade deadline to me, so there's different ways
of acquiring players," Wilson said. "We look every day at options
and opportunities that are there."