Thursday's personnel decision was the first significant one for Doug Wilson as the Sharks' new general manager, and it was easy. Ricci is one of San Jose's few remaining veteran leaders following a series of trades during the dismal regular season.
Ricci was the Sharks' fifth-leading scorer with 11 goals and 34 points. Along with many of his teammates, he struggled with injuries and meager production as San Jose sank to last place in the Pacific Division, which it won in 2002.
"I think it'll always be deep down in everyone's stomach," Ricci said of the Sharks' lost season. "A lot of good people are gone, and the guys who are still here have taken it on themselves to turn things around."
The Sharks also signed defenseman Doug Murray, who played at Cornell last season. Murray, the Sharks' eighth-round draft pick in 1999, was the Ivy League's player of the year in 2001-02.
Wilson still hasn't heard from center Vincent Damphousse, who must decide by July 1 whether to exercise his $4 million option for next season - but for the first time Thursday, Wilson said the Sharks hope their second-leading scorer will return.
"He's in a situation to make the choice on what's best for him," Wilson said. "If he decides to come back, we have high expectations."
The Sharks' decision to keep Ricci and their hopes of retaining Damphousse indicate the team might not plan on slashing its payroll down to $30 million or less, as many expected when Wilson was hired by new owner Greg Jamison to replace Dean Lombardi earlier this month.
Last season, San Jose traded nearly half of its roster, including longtime captain Owen Nolan, and fired coach Darryl Sutter while sinking to 24th place in the overall NHL standings. What's more, Teemu Selanne -- the Sharks' leading scorer -- intends to test the free agent market after declining his player option.
The Associated Press News Service
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