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Price of loyalty

Selanne takes pay cut to remain with San Jose

Posted: Friday July 05, 2002 6:45 PM
Updated: Friday July 05, 2002 8:18 PM
  Teemu Selanne Teemu Selanne scored 29 goals for the division-winning Sharks. Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- In the middle of another bonanza summer for NHL free agents, Teemu Selanne astonished his general manager with his decision to take a pay cut.

Selanne agreed to a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Sharks on Friday, capping an eventful negotiation between the high-scoring right wing and the team he led in goals last season.

Selanne's new contract also contains a player option for a second season at $6.5 million.

Sharks GM Dean Lombardi was thrilled to take a big step toward accomplishing his biggest goal of the offseason: keeping every key player from last season's Pacific Division champions in teal.

"The way Teemu Selanne handled this is very unique today," Lombardi said. "I don't think there's any question this player left a lot of money on the table. This is clearly a case where money wasn't important. That really restores my faith in a lot of things when I see a player do what he did."

Earlier in the week, the Sharks thought they had lost Selanne to the lure of the riches available in unrestricted free agency. But after negotiations with at least four other teams -- and a lucrative contract proposal from an unspecified Eastern Conference club -- Selanne accepted the Sharks' offer.

"He wants to be in an environment where he's going to be used at his fullest, and where he contributes to the team," Lombardi said. "It sounds kind of fairy-tale-like, but it's the truth. I have no doubt he could have got more money."

Selanne, who is with his family in Finland, wasn't immediately available for comment. His signing puts the Sharks' top eight goal-scorers from last season under contract for next season.

Selanne, an eight-time All-Star, scored 29 goals -- his lowest full-season output since 1993-94 -- and 54 points last season while helping the Sharks to the first division title in franchise history.

He was also a positive veteran influence in the Sharks' locker room, as evidenced by the teammates who called Selanne and petitioned Lombardi for his return.

"This guy has always had a special gift," Lombardi said. "He just refuses to have a bad day. He's not your typical high-profile star."

Selanne led the Sharks with nine power-play goals and eight game-winning goals last season. He made $9.5 million, but $3 million was paid by Anaheim, which traded him to San Jose two seasons ago.

Because Selanne, who turned 32 on Wednesday, loves living on the West Coast and enjoys playing for a winning team after years with bad clubs, Lombardi always thought he could re-sign the Finnish Flash despite an uncertain budget under the team's new ownership.

Shortly before unrestricted free agency began, Selanne countered a contract offer from Lombardi with a proposal that Lombardi deemed too steep. But after Bobby Holik and Bill Guerin agreed to lavish contracts with the free-spending New York Rangers and Dallas Stars earlier in the week, Selanne's options narrowed.

Lombardi said Selanne rejected a four-year deal worth more money than the Sharks' offer from an Eastern team on Thursday night.

"I think his heart was always in coming back here," Lombardi said.

The Sharks acquired Selanne on March 5, 2001, from Anaheim for wing Jeff Friesen and goalie Steve Shields.

Selanne has never repeated the feats he accomplished in 1992-93, when he set NHL rookie records with 76 goals and 132 points with Winnipeg, but he has scored at least 47 goals four times. He won the Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer with the Ducks in 1999.

Selanne has scored 408 goals and 855 points. He is the NHL's 69th career 400-goal scorer and the second Finnish player to reach the milestone, joining Jari Kurri last season.

On Monday, the Sharks exercised contract options on center Patrick Marleau and forward Marco Sturm -- Selanne's linemates at the close of the regular season and during the playoffs, when his production increased dramatically.

The Sharks' next task is to sign their restricted free agents, who include goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defensemen Brad Stuart, Marcus Ragnarsson and Scott Hannan.


 
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