Sharks

Curtis Brown criticizes NHL Player Safety for Blues' hits vs. Sharks

Curtis Brown criticizes NHL Player Safety for Blues' hits vs. Sharks

The Sharks are facing elimination in Game 6 of the Western Conference final on Tuesday night, and are doing so without the help of Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl and captain Joe Pavelski.

All three of those San Jose stars are missing the game due to injury, but the latter two were injured as the result of what could generously be called borderline hits suffered in Game 5.

Both players were removed from Game 5 after taking hits to the head from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, respectively. However, the NHL Department of Player Safety deemed neither hit deserving of supplemental discipline.

NBC Sports California analyst Curtis Brown took issue with the hits in the aftermath of Game 5, and directed his ire at the Department of Player Safety ahead of Game 6 for what he deemed to be a failure to protect the players.

"I don't think the league is doing what they said they were going to do," Brown said on Sharks Playoff Live, "which is create a standard that hits to the head are going to be controlled by them via suspensions."

"It's like they're closed for business," he continued. "The Department of Player Safety is gone for the summer."

Look, it's hard to argue with Brown. Karlsson was given a two-game suspension during the regular season for a hit that looked eerily similar to Barbashev's, and Joe Thornton was suspended for Game 4 of the first round for a hit to the head that looked pretty darn similar to the one Blues forward Sammy Blais laid on Sharks defenseman Justin Braun in Game 3. Blais, like Barbashev and Pietrangelo, didn't receive any supplemental discipline.

[RELATED: Why Barbashev reportedly wasn't disciplined for Hertl hit]

The Sharks are facing elimination Tuesday night, and don't have the benefit of having three of their best players with them. That's unfortunate in itself, but the fact that the NHL Department of Safety continues to be wildly inconsistent in the enforcement of what they self-proclaimed as their No. 1 priority makes it that much worse.

NHL rumors: Sharks' Joe Pavelski meets with Stars before free agency

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NHL rumors: Sharks' Joe Pavelski meets with Stars before free agency

Joe Pavelski reportedly is taking advantage of the NHL's free-agent meeting period.

The Sharks captain, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, met with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

Pavelski, 38, scored 38 goals with San Jose last season. That total would have led Dallas, too, which lacked scoring up front behind its top trio of Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn. Those three were the only Stars to score at least 20 goals, and 18 other teams exceeded that total.

The Stars have just under $10.96 million in salary-cap space, according to Cap Friendly, which would be enough to bring in Pavelski. The Sharks have more ($14.8 million) but, San Jose also has just seven forwards under contract who finished the season in the NHL.

Dallas was a win away from eliminating the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the second round, but blew a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Given the aforementioned scoring depth, or lack thereof, Pavelski would fill a hole on the Stars' roster.

Such a move would weaken the Sharks and strengthen a possible rival, as the Stars would then have a case to enter the Western Conference's elite. It wouldn't necessarily result in a revenge playoff series for Pavelski, as San Jose and Dallas couldn't face off until the Western Conference final -- unless one of the teams finished in the other's divisional postseason bracket as a wild card.

Pavelski reportedly isn't limiting his options to the Western Conference, however. He will meet with the Tampa Bay Lightning next, according to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz and LeBrun.

The Lightning ran away with the President's Trophy in a 128-point season but was swept out of the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Pavelski's presence would proved Tampa Bay a proven playoff performer, although the Lightning faces a tighter salary-cap crunch than the Sharks.

[RELATED: Can cap-strapped Sharks keep Nyquist?]

Tampa Bay has $10.6 million in salary-cap space after dealing J.T. Miller and will have more when it officially places Ryan Callahan on long-term injured reserve, but the Lightning still needs to lock up restricted free agent Brayden Point this summer and has Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy set to become an RFA next summer. It's difficult to see where Pavelski fits into that equation, but he unquestionably would make the NHL's rich even richer.

Pavelski did not shut the door on returning to the Sharks in an interview earlier this week. These reports make it clear he hasn't shut the door on leaving, either.

NHL rumors: Sharks' Kevin Labanc receiving interest from 'multiple teams'

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NHL rumors: Sharks' Kevin Labanc receiving interest from 'multiple teams'

After having a career year, Kevin Labanc appears to be in high demand.

The 23-year-old tallied 56 points (17 goals, 39 assists) and steadied himself once he joined Joe Thornton's line. Labanc will become a restricted free agent July 1, and although the Sharks would love to keep him, they might have some competition for the young winger, according to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period.

On Tuesday, the Sharks issued qualifying offers to Labanc and six others, meaning the Sharks retain their rights and are entitled to compensation should any of the seven players sign an offer sheet with another team.

That's what makes the possibility of Labanc leaving a bit far-fetched.

If Labanc did sign an offer sheet, the Sharks would be entitled to compensation based on the salary he received.

No player has signed an offer sheet since 2013, and much of the offer sheet talk has been overblown. Most hockey general managers are too scared to put pen to paper when it comes to offer sheets.

[RELATED: Stay or go: Why keeping Nyquist could be hard for Sharks]

The Sharks have a tenuous cap situation after the Erik Karlsson signing. They are slotted to have only $14.8 million left and could lose Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist all of whom are unrestricted free agents.

Smart money is on Labanc returning to San Jose, but anything is possible.