<
>

Sharks trade Ekman to Penguins for second-round pick

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks traded left wing
Nils Ekman and goalie Patrick Ehelechner to the Pittsburgh Penguins
on Thursday for a second-round draft pick next season.

Ekman scored 112 points in 159 games for the Sharks over the
past two seasons, playing on San Jose's top line with MVP Joe
Thornton and NHL goal-scoring champion Jonathan Cheechoo last year.
Ekman also played with Tampa Bay for two seasons before joining the
Sharks.

But the Swedish forward struggled with consistency and physical
play, frequently landing in coach Ron Wilson's doghouse. Ekman, the
Sharks' second-leading scorer with 57 points in 2003-04, also
played poorly in the postseason for the second straight year.

"Nils has been very good for us," Sharks general manager Doug
Wilson said. "He has played real well the last couple of years,
but with the additions we've made ... and the (players) that have
emerged, you can see just where we've evolved as a team."

Wilson signed free agents Mike Grier and Curtis Brown this
summer before acquiring Mark Bell in a trade with Chicago 10 days
ago, offsetting the losses of free-agent veterans Alyn McCauley and
Scott Thornton to Los Angeles.

Bell is expected to get the first shot in Ekman's coveted slot
alongside Joe Thornton. The Sharks also plan to give bigger roles
to youngsters Steve Bernier and Milan Michalek and
recently-acquired veteran Ville Nieminen.

Ehelechner, a fifth-round pick in 2003, played professionally in
Germany for the last two seasons. The Sharks are loaded with strong
goalie prospects -- and the last time Pittsburgh acquired a goalie
from San Jose, Johan Hedberg ended up becoming the Penguins'
starter.

"Patrick was well down the list on our depth chart, and
Pittsburgh needed to get some depth in its system," Wilson said.