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San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov sits on the boards with teammates after the Chicago Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg scored an empty net goal during third period hockey action in Game 4 of the NHL Western Conference finals, Sunday, May 23, 2010, in Chicago. The Blackhawks won the game 4-2 and swept the series 4-0. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Charles Rex Arbogast

Sekeres: Sharks swept into summer

Where does San Jose go from here?

Put it this way, the Sharks have roughly $22-million in cap space, enough room to retain the existing team, relatively intact, or overhaul the top end of their roster.

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Forward Patrick Marleau and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov -- both with 10 years in Teal -- are unrestricted free agents. At their positions, both should be among the highest-paid players this summer.

Accounting for restricted free agents Joe Pavelski and Devon Setoguchi, the Sharks should be able to squeeze Marleau and Nabokov under the cap for 2010-11. It would be tight.

Defenceman Rob Blake, 40, and third- and fourth-line centres Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol are also unrestricted free agents.

Bringing back both Marleau and Nabokov would probably mean going cheap on the back end of the roster, and sacrificing some of the existing group, which includes rental defenceman Niclas Wallin and injured forward Jed Ortmeyer.

San Jose could also retain one of Marleau or Nabokov, and shop for another marquee free agent.

Perhaps they spend money on a free-agent goalie not named Nabokov, or a free-agent forward not named Marleau? Or perhaps they go cheap in goal, teaming backup Thomas Greiss with a co-starter?

Any way its sliced, the conference final loss to Chicago sends the Sharks into a franchise-defining summer. At stake is their standing as one of the Cup contenders out West.

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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