Through his own ferocious play, Ryane Clowe taught his San Jose Sharks teammates the spirit of toughness and sticking together.
The New York Rangers are counting on that very hard-nosed player doing the same thing as he moves across the country to join another contender.
New York acquired the fiery forward from the Sharks for three draft picks Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's trade deadline.
To save space under the salary cap, the Sharks made the tough call to part ways with a versatile leader in both the locker room and on the ice.
“He's one of these guys that's feared and respected, he's tough as nails, he can play the game, he's a great teammate, and he's a pending unrestricted free agent,” San Jose president and general manager Doug Wilson said.
“As a player and a teammate, teammates know he has their back and he's just a tremendous heart-and-soul competitor.”
The Sharks receive the Rangers' second-round pick and a third-round pick in the 2013 draft, and a conditional second-round pick in the 2014 draft.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to acquire Ryane,” Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said.
“He is a unique combination of size, skill and toughness. His strong leadership and character make him a tremendous addition to our organization on and off the ice.”
If Clowe re-signs with the Rangers or the team wins two playoff rounds, the pick remains New York's 2014 second-round selection.
If neither occurs, the pick becomes New York's fifth-round 2014 selection.
While Clowe hasn't scored a goal this season, he has 11 assists in 28 games. The rugged right winger has long been considered the heart of the franchise. He was originally selected by San Jose in the sixth round of the 2001 draft and leaves the Sharks ninth on the team's career points list with 271.
He waived his no-trade clause to join a Rangers team that entered Tuesday holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sharks let Clowe's camp “take the lead” and Clowe made the final call on the swap.
“These types of deals are always extremely difficult,” Wilson said on a conference call shortly after meeting with Clowe.
“Ryane is a homegrown guy, tremendous character and tremendously respected. It's a deal, having just finished meeting with Ryane, I have mixed emotions. But it's with great appreciation of what he's given us as a member of our organization and certainly how he helped us through this process we just went through.
“Ryane and his agent, Kent Hughes, were very involved in this process and had the final say and certainly did everything they could to, one, get to place they wanted to get to, but also help our organization get full value back for Ryane. That just tells you an awful lot about Ryane,” Wilson said.
The 30-year-old Clowe has 101 career goals and 170 assists for 271 points in his eight seasons with San Jose. He surpassed the 50-point mark in three straight seasons from 2008-11, and has a pair of 20-goal seasons.
Now, the Sharks must fill a big void.
Part of that will happen with five picks among the first 61 selections in the June 30 draft.
“We're going through kind of a reset and refresh with our team,” Wilson said. “You can't really allow three unrestricted free agents to leave and not get any assets in return. So we kind of came to the decision and conclusion there were some things we wanted to do. We've got some young players who were ready to seize the opportunity.”
The Sharks entered games Tuesday in sixth place in the Western Conference with 42 points. San Jose beat the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night — when Clowe was a healthy scratch — for a fifth straight win heading into Wednesday's home game against the Minnesota Wild.
The Sharks will get their first chance to match Clowe's intensity with him gone.
“It's team toughness. We play a certain way and you shouldn't be looking over your shoulder for some other guy to come and clean up your messes,” Wilson said.
“The way we play, we play by committee. It's contagious when you play hard, you play whistle to whistle and have a very good power play, obviously. We've got some guys that are physical guys, too. I think the one thing that Ryane taught all the guys is, 'You be there for me, I'll be there for you.'”