Sharks agree to deals with forwards Grier, Brown

Mike Grier and Curtis Brown liked what they saw from the San Jose Sharks after Joe Thornton's arrival sparked a midseason turnaround.

That played a big role in their decision to join the team. The free agent forwards agreed to deals with the Sharks on Monday, adding depth at forward for San Jose.

"There is great offensive talent there," Grier said. "I think Joe and Patty [Marleau] are the best 1-2 punch in centers in the league. It's rare to find that combination of skill and size and skating ability down the middle. As wingers you just have to go to the net and put your stick on the ice and you'll probably get a few by accident."

Grier's former team, the Buffalo Sabres, also expressed interest in re-signing Grier, agent Jay Fee told The Associated Press, but the veteran forward elected to go with the Sharks.

The deal will pay Grier $1,775,000 a year, a boost over the $1.36 million he made with Buffalo last season before becoming an unrestricted free agent Saturday for the first time in his career.

A nine-year NHL veteran, Grier was a valuable defensive specialist and behind-the-scenes leader in helping a young Sabres team win a franchise-record 52 regular-season games and clinch the team's first playoff berth since 2001.

"There is a lot of young talent on the team, a lot of skill and scoring ability there," Grier said. "Maybe they were looking for a little bit more grit and size on the wings and someone a little older who has been through the playoffs and ups and downs of a long season."

Grier finished with 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) in 81 games last season -- his lowest point total since registering 15 in 1997-98 with Edmonton. But he scored a career-high four game-winning goals while usually playing against an opposing team's top line.

Grier added three goals and five assists in 18 playoff games.

"He is a physically dominating guy," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said about the 6-foot-1, 227-pound Grier. "He obviously kills penalties, can score big goals and plays his best in the playoffs. He punishes people, too. The ability to be physical is still a big part of this game."

After a slow start last season, the Sharks made a strong late season run, winning eight in a row to catapult from 10th place to fifth in the conference standings.

The Sharks won their opening round series against Nashville and then took the first two games in the second round against Edmonton before losing four straight.

"From an outsider looking in last season, San Jose had ups and downs early on, but as things went on they were one of the top teams in the league," Brown said. "They made an incredible push to get into the playoffs. ... We're coming to a quality hockey club with all the expectations. We'll be a tough bunch to handle."

Brown spent last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, posting five goals and 10 assists in 71 games. He became a free agent when Chicago bought out the final two years of a four-year, $6.8-million deal. He signed a $1.4 million, two-year deal with the Sharks.

Last season was a difficult one for Brown, whose 5-month-old daughter, Aubri, died of sudden infant death syndrome in September.

"I'm so excited to be a year removed from that situation and get back to where I need to be as a player and help the team succeed," he said. "It was a situation where we didn't choose to move on, but it's definitely a breath of fresh air. We'll have some things here in Chicago that we liked but maybe separating ourselves from that incident is not bad either."

Brown spent the final 12 games of the 2003-04 season with San Jose after being acquired from Buffalo, posting two goals and two assists.

Brown's best season was in 1999-2000, when he scored 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) in 74 games with Buffalo. In 11 seasons with Buffalo, San Jose and Chicago, Brown has 116 goals and 155 assists.

The additions bolster the Sharks' depth at forward after the team lost two players in free agency, center Alyn McCauley and left wing Scott Thornton. Both signed with Los Angeles.