SAN JOSE -- Goalie Alex Stalock is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but said Friday his first preference is to remain with the Sharks, to whom he feels loyal after the team stuck with him through what was a career-threatening injury three years ago.

"I really like it here. It's the only organization I've been on, and they've been great to me since day 1," Stalock said, "and with everything I've been through, it's been handled great. I can only say good stuff."

Stalock, 26, is set to become a Group 6 unrestricted free agent since he has five seasons of professional experience but fewer than 26 games in the NHL in which he played a minimum of 30 minutes.

Stalock started Game 6 of the Sharks' opening-round series against the Los Angeles Kings, and would have become a restricted free agent if he had played 30 minutes or more in three more games.

In his first full NHL season, Stalock had a 12-5-4 record as a backup to Antti Niemi, who has one year left on his contract at $3.8 million.

Asked if he felt he was ready to be a No. 1 starting goalie, Stalock said, "It's a tough job to play every single night, and that's your ultimate goal. But obviously it's a start and you always think you can do it. As the workload gets more and more, I guess, that's when you can answer it."


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Three years ago when he was with Worcester of the AHL, and three days after he saw his first playing time with San Jose, Stalock suffered nerve damage behind his left knee after being accidentally stepped on by Dwight King, now with the Los Angeles Kings. He had surgery less than two weeks later to reconnect the nerve, and the following season he began his long road back to the NHL.

Stalock made $625,000 this past season, according to capgeek.com, but figures to get a decent-sized raise after he accumulated a .932 save percentage and a 1.87 goals against average for the Sharks this year.

"It'd be exciting to obviously be a starter," Stalock said, "but keep working through the summer and see what happens, and earn your playing time instead of being promised it."

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.