Sharks trade Ekman to Penguins for second-round pick

Updated: July 20, 2006, 8:16 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Nils Ekman

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press