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Sharks bring back free agents Wingels, Sheppard

Uncertainly still surrounds the San Jose Sharks this offseason, but at least they now have two of their key restricted free agents locked up.

The Sharks announced that Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard have signed extensions with the team — Wingels for three years, and Sheppard for one year.

Wingels’ deal is worth $7.4 million over three years, which could end up being a bargain for the Sharks. The 26-year-old forward had a breakout seasons last year with 16 goals and 22 assists in 77 games.

2013-14 was Wingels’ first as a regular starter, and although he was penciled in as a winger on the third line, Wingels often found himself playing on the second line.

GM Doug Wilson lauded Wingels for his solid year:

“Tommy stepped forward and made a big commitment to our organization. He is an important part of our team and a hard-working, physical presence in our lineup. He competes the way we want our team to play and we’re excited to have his leadership, both on and off the ice, in our locker room for three more seasons.”

If Wilson’s quote is any indication, Wingels is an integral part of the Sharks’ future going forward. Along with Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, and perhaps Tomas Hertl, Wingels is one of the young players who Wilson has said he wants to eventually turn the team over to.

Sheppard signed a one-year deal worth $1.3 million. Also 26 years of age, he scored four goals and recorded 16 assists in 67 games last season, his first full NHL season since suffering a horrific knee injury in 2010 with the Wild that forced him to miss two full seasons.

Since being traded to the Sharks, Sheppard has proven that not only should he be back in the NHL, but he is also here to stay.

Wilson commented on Sheppard’s resilience:

“James has worked tremendously hard and earned himself a key role on our team last season. His perseverance and dedication make him a valuable asset to our organization going forward.”

Sheppard was a mainstay on the Sharks’ checking lines last season. He may not possess the skill set of a dynamic forward, but he makes do with what he does have, and that’s a lot of tenacity and grit. He works hard on the boards and does a lot of the dirty work that third or fourth liners have to do to be successful.

Sheppard also understands his role. Selected ninth overall in the 2009 draft, he is no longer that hot shot top draft pick; instead, he is a solid bottom-six forward who can add much-needed depth to any team.

With Wingels and Sheppard locked up, Jason Demers — who filed for arbitration — is the only restricted free agent left for the Sharks to work out a deal with.

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