Rob Blake, the rugged defenseman who controlled the blue line during 20 NHL seasons and captained the Sharks into the Western Conference finals this spring, is retiring.
The formal announcement is not expected to come until next week. On Wednesday, both the Sharks and Blake declined to comment.
But his retirement, first reported by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, is not unexpected. It had been clear for months that Blake, 40, was leaning toward hanging up his skates after the season. And when the Sharks were eliminated from the postseason by Chicago, Blake sounded as if he only needed a few weeks away before making it official.
Blake had a big impact during his two seasons in San Jose. A steadying presence in the locker room, Blake consistently was praised by teammates for his quiet leadership. So it was no surprise when he was named team captain last fall, taking over the role from Patrick Marleau.
His decision marks the first domino to tumble in what likely will be a busy Sharks offseason. Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabokov become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Among other pressing business is re-signing young standouts Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi, who are restricted free agents.
But whatever the Sharks' roster looks like in the fall, it will not include Blake.
His long career is dotted with highlights -- topped by winning the 2001 Stanley Cup with Colorado. Blake also won the 1998 Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman, played on the 2002 Team Canada Olympic gold-medal squad and was a seven-time All-Star. He scored 240 goals with 537 assists and 1,679 penalty minutes in 1,270 regular-season NHL games. Blake notched more than 40 points in a season 12 times in his career.
He also is generally regarded as a lock for eventual induction into the Hall of Fame.
At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Blake was an intimidating force during two tours of duty with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado and the Sharks. Slowed by injuries earlier in his career -- in large part because of his physical play -- he proved remarkably durable in his later years. He played in 143 regular-season games in his two seasons with the Sharks.
A native of Ontario, he was the 70th overall pick of the 1988 draft. He broke into the NHL with Los Angeles in 1990 and quickly became a Kings mainstay. He replaced Wayne Gretzky as the team's captain in 1996 and held the title until he was traded to Colorado in 2001. That turned out to be a great move as Blake played a key role when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup title that season.
In 2006, he returned to the Kings. But after two more seasons in Los Angeles, he signed a one-year deal with the Sharks. He formed a strong defensive pairing with Marc-Edouard Vlasic as he scored 10 goals and added 35 assists.
This season, after signing another one-year deal for $3.5 million, Blake assumed the Sharks' captaincy from Marleau in a move widely seen as taking pressure from the forward's shoulders. Marleau responded with his best season ever, scoring 44 goals.
And Blake was credited for leading a Sharks team that finished with the best Western Conference regular-season record and won two playoff rounds before being swept by the Chicago Blackhawks. Blake, who had seven goals and 23 assists, played some of his best hockey late in the year.
Now, the Sharks are expected to put his salary savings toward signing their free agents. They also might very well be in the market for another defenseman.