Paul Martin

Former Sharks defenseman Paul Martin announces retirement

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USATSI

Former Sharks defenseman Paul Martin announces retirement

After 14 seasons with the Devils, Penguins and Sharks, defenseman Paul Martin has called it a career.

Martin announced his retirement from the NHL in an article published by The Athletic on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old spent the last three seasons in San Jose and was released on June 22.

In three seasons with the Sharks, Martin finished with seven goals and 41 assists.

Martin was defense partners with Brent Burns when the latter won the Norris Trophy during the 2016-17 season.

As you might imagine, Burns had nice things to say about Martin in The Athletic's piece.

“The most special thing about that guy is it didn’t matter how many times you asked him how he was or what was he doing or what was going on, he always just cared about you," Burns told The Athletic's Michael Russo. "We always joked, we know his name, but we know nothing else ’cause he’s always asking if we’re all right, how our kids are doing, how life is. He just cared that much and he really put the ‘Nice’ in the Minnesota Nice. It’s like this guy just exemplifies that. I mean, just look what he’s doing for kids in Minnesota. That says everything you want to know about him. It’s just so genuine of him. I’m not kidding you, he’s the most genuine human being I’ve ever met."

Sharks to buy out Paul Martin's contract

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USATSI

Sharks to buy out Paul Martin's contract

The Sharks placed veteran defenseman Paul Martin on unconditional waivers on Friday in order to buy out his contract, San Jose general manager Doug Wilson announced. The move came hours before this year's NHL Draft. 

"Paul Martin has been the utmost professional on and off the ice during his three years in San Jose," Wilson said in a statement. "His leadership, character and on-ice contributions have been essential to our success and in reaching the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. The impact he has had on our organization, his teammates and many of our younger players will be felt for many years to come.

San Jose will save a little over $3.2 million this year, according to Paul Gackle of The Mercury NewsThe Mercury News, giving the team about $19.2 million in salary cap space this offseason. 

Signed to a four-year, $19.4 million contract in the 2015 offseason, Martin became a popular figure in the Sharks' dressing room. In his first two seasons in teal, he played alongside Brent Burns on the blueline, partnering with the towering defenseman en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2016 and in his Norris Trophy-winning season in 2016-17. 

The 37-year-old struggled to get into San Jose's lineup this season, leaving the second game of the season with an ankle injury. He would not play again in the NHL until Dec. 7, and eventually played 18 games with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda.

After an injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, Martin seized the opportunity and returned to his old spot alongside Burns. Martin played all but 12:27 in the final 11 games without Burns, posting sterling possession numbers at even strength (58.39 corsi-for and scoring-chance-for percentages, according to Natural Stat Trick). 

He played in seven playoff games, too, but was replaced by Ryan after San Jose's Game 3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. After being one of just six players with whom the Sharks controlled a majority of the shot attempts in the first round against the Anaheim Ducks, the older defenseman struggled against the speedy Golden Knights. 

Martin is the third player who's contract the Sharks have bought out. San Jose bought out the final year of Martin Havlat's six-year, $25 million deal in 2014, and the last season of Adam Burish's four-year, $7.4 million contract in 2015. The defenseman will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, at the same time as the Sharks' other marquee signing from 2015: Joel Ward. 

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

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AP

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is.