Eager, Wellwood heading West to Sharks

San Jose picked up Atlanta Thrashers tough guy Ben Eager in a trade Tuesday from Atlanta and also claimed forward Kyle Wellwood off waivers from St. Louis.

The San Jose Sharks hope Ben Eager can lend Stanley Cup experience to help the team overcome its playoff performance.

Eager, who helped the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks to a four-game sweep of San Jose in last year's NHL Western Conference final before he was traded to Atlanta, was acquired Tuesday by the Sharks for a fifth-round pick in this summer's entry draft.

"We didn't give up anything off our team, so the addition just adds to the pool of players," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said.

Also Tuesday, the Sharks claimed forward Kyle Wellwood off waivers from the St. Louis Blues, who had agreed to a one-year contract with the former Vancouver Canuck and Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

The additions come at a good time for the Sharks, who lost forward Scott Nichol to a four-game suspension Tuesday for hitting Phoenix defenceman David Schlemko in the head. Nichol will forfeit $16,344 in salary for the suspension.

The 27-year-old Wellwood, an NHL free agent, played 25 games this season with the Mytishchi Atlanti in Russia's Continental Hockey League, or KHL.

"He's played all year, he played in the KHL, so this is not a player who has been on the sidelines," Wilson said. "People come in and are given opportunities and we've seen that when players are given that opportunity, they will go the extra mile. There is no risk to us in this situation.

"It should be an exciting opportunity for him to showcase what he can do."


Wellwood, who hails from Windsor, Ont., headed overseas after he failed to crack the roster out of training camp for the Phoenix Coyotes.

He spent two seasons with the Canucks before being let go in the off-season, averaging 16 goals and 26 points a season.

The forward's best production came between 2005 and 2007 for the team that drafted him, the Maple Leafs. He had 45 points in 2005-06, and the following season managed 42 points in 48 games.

Eager, 26, had three goals and 10 points and added 77 penalty minutes in 34 games this season for the Thrashers. He also played with Philadelphia last season.

"Ben Eager is a very engaged player," Wilson said. "The best compliment I can give him is he is like a big Scott Nichol. He can play the game. He's got speed and other teams are uncomfortable when he is out there. He's pretty valuable. He's gained valuable experience the last couple of years that can help our group."

Prior to last year, San Jose had lost in the West semifinal three times in the previous four seasons.

The Sharks entered play Tuesday in ninth spot in the conference with a 23-19-5 record.

In related news, the Sharks assigned forwards Andrew Desjardins and Brandon Mashinter and defenceman Justin Braun to Worcester of the American Hockey League. They also activated forward John McCarthy from injured reserve.

With files from The Associated Press