- Associated Press - Friday, July 1, 2011

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (AP) - The San Jose Sharks opened the free agency period by making another move to retool their defensive unit, signing rugged defenseman Jim Vandermeer to a $1 million, one-year contract Friday.

The signing comes a week after the Sharks found the offensive defenseman they had been seeking when they acquired All-Star Brent Burns in a draft-day trade with Minnesota.

“We were looking for a big physical stopper and a guy who has that physical presence that would complement the rest of our group,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “We really like how our defense looks now with all the different components.”

Vandermeer, 31, had only two goals and 12 assists in 62 games with Edmonton last season. But his strengths come in other aspects of his game. He had 74 penalty minutes and finished fourth on the Oilers with 122 hits and 78 blocked shots.

He gives the Sharks another option for their third defensive pairing, along with more offensive players like Jason Demers and Justin Braun.

“He’s very tough,” Wilson said. “People don’t like to play against him. He’s a great teammate. He plays very hard. He knows the Western Conference well. He’s not afraid to drop gloves and take care of his teammates. He’s an intimidation factor that’s a nice complement with what Douglas Murray brings to our group.”

The San Jose defense is led by Murray, Burns, All-Star Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. With the two new acquisitions and the Sharks wanting to get a look at some of their younger players, free agents Ian White and Kent Huskins will most likely not be back.

Vandermeer has spent most of his eight-year NHL career in the Western Conference, except for two stints in Philadelphia. Vandermeer has 24 goals and 77 assists in 436 career games with the Flyers, Chicago, Edmonton, Phoenix and Calgary.

He has made the playoffs just three times in his career, losing in the first round to the Sharks in 2007-08. That made joining a team that has made it to the Western Conference final the past two seasons a desirable option in free agency.

“It was a pretty big factor in the decision-making process,” Vandermeer said. “Looking where this team is at right now, it’s looking like a really good opportunity.”

The Sharks also lost two of their own free agents Friday, with forward Jamal Mayers signing with Chicago and forward Ben Eager reaching a deal with Edmonton. Wilson had already stated the team would not bring back Mayers, fellow forward Scott Nichol and defenseman Niclas Wallin.

San Jose still has work to do filling out its third and fourth lines after giving up 22-goal scorer Devin Setoguchi in the deal with Minnesota for Burns.

The Sharks kept restricted free agents Jamie McGinn, Andrew Desjardins and Frazer McLaren before the start of free agency and also have Torrey Mitchell under contract. Benn Ferriero is a restricted free agent who is expected to return, while Kyle Wellwood is an unrestricted free agent whose status is to be determined.

Wilson said he is still looking at various trade and free agency options to solidify his forward lines.

“We will fill out the spots we want to fill out in due time,” Wilson said. “It has to be the right player and the right type of contract. We have a very good team but there are pieces we’d like to add. We’ll keep plugging away.”

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