Sharks

Sharks GM Wilson opens up on contract talks with Marleau, Thornton

Sharks GM Wilson opens up on contract talks with Marleau, Thornton

After suffering a significant left knee injury late in the season and undergoing surgery on April 24, Joe Thornton remains on schedule with his rehab.

According to general manager Doug Wilson, Thornton is still expected to be ready by the start of the 2017-18 season after he suffered torn MCL and ACL ligaments in a game in Vancouver on April 2, yet bravely returned midway through the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

“Jumbo is doing extremely well,” Wilson said. “He’s been [at Sharks Ice] every day, looks really good. I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’ll be ready and fit to start the season. The work that he’s put in already, that’s pure Jumbo. He loves the game. I see him every day here at the rink.”

Whether Thornton, a pending unrestricted free agent, returns to the Sharks is still unclear. Wilson wasn’t offering much in terms of where negotiations stand with Thornton or fellow pending unrestricted free agent Patrick Marleau.

“As far as the negotiations, some of it depends on where the overall cap number is going to be, and obviously…there are some other key contracts that I have to try and get in place. As far as both Patty and Jumbo, we’ve had some dialogue. That will continue and remain private.”

The salary cap for the 2017-18 season has yet to be released by the league. According to several reports, the NHLPA was set to vote on Friday on whether to raise the cap to $75 million from its current $73 million.

Wilson’s top priority is to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term extensions. The general manager said he’s “making progress” with both, “but there’s still some work to be done.” They can officially sign on July 1.

It is likely at this point that Thornton and Marleau will both wait until June 25 at the earliest before doing anything, as that is the date that other teams are permitted to speak with unrestricted free agents. According to multiple sources, there are no backroom-type “handshake deals” in place for either of the two franchise cornerstones that would allow the Sharks to protect extra players in the expansion draft.

As reported here previously, Thornton would still prefer a three-year contract, and is likely seeking at least $5 million per season. Marleau is also seeking a contract of at least three years, according to a source. Both players will turn 38 before the start of the regular season, so whether they would be able to command those sorts of deals on the open market is difficult to ascertain.

There are important days ahead for all involved parties. Uncertainty abounds, at least for now.

“When it comes to making hockey decisions we have to make the decisions under this cap system that makes sense,” Wilson said. “They’ve meant a lot to us, they mean a lot to us.” 

“We’re exploring, and trying to do everything we can to make the right decisions for this franchise. They have choices also, obviously.”

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

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Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.

 

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.