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.
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.