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Blake's departure is the first of what could be many key changes on the Sharks before next season. Marleau, the team's leading goal scorer last season, and Nabokov, the starting goaltender, are both eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
The team also will need to pick a new captain, with Thornton, defenseman Dan Boyle and forward Joe Pavelski among the possibilities.
"There's a lot of different choices there," Blake said. "We've always said the past couple of years that it's a leadership group. One person will wear the 'C.' That's the history of the game. But it's evolved into a group of leaders."
Blake grew up on a farm in Ontario, never envisioning what his career would entail. He played college hockey at Bowling Green and was a fourth-round pick by Los Angeles in 1988. He came up late in the 1989-90 season after finishing his college career. His first goal as an NHL player came in the playoffs against Calgary.
Blake was a key cog for a Kings team, led by Wayne Gretzky, which lost in five games to Montreal in the 1993 Stanley Cup final. Blake replaced Gretzky as captain in Los Angeles in 1996 and was traded in February 2001 to Colorado. He had six goals and 13 assists that postseason for the Avalanche, leading them past New Jersey in seven games for championship.
He returned to Los Angeles in 2006 as a free agent and then left to join the Sharks in 2008.
Blake leaves the game 10th on the career list with 240 goals as a defenseman. He finished his career with 537 assists and 777 points. His 136 power-play goals are the third most by an NHL defenseman, trailing only Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (173) and Al MacInnis (166).
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