Sharks

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

Joe Thornton scores 400th career goal, joins Hall of Fame company

SAN JOSE -- There was a plethora of storylines coming out of the Sharks’ crazy 5-4 victory over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Almost all of them were eclipsed by Joe Thornton scoring his 400th career goal.

With the score tied up 4-4 in the waning minutes of regulation, the towering forward receiving a magnificent cross-ice pass from linemate Marcus Sorensen before sending the puck past Nashville goalie Juuse Saros into the back of the net

The energy at the Tank after the goal was electric. As his teammates swarmed him in celebration, Thornton was full of emotion as his 400th marker put the Sharks on top 5-4.

“I was on the ice, it was awesome,” Joe Pavelski said with a smile after the game. “It’s hard to put in perspective at times just what he’s been able to accomplish.”

The only thing making the goal even more impressive was that it put him on an exclusive list of seven players in NHL history who have scored 400 goals, tallied 1,000 assists, and played in over 1,500 games. Not surprisingly, though, Thornton told the media he was more focused on helping the team win than notching the milestone goal.

“Just trying to improve my game right now,” he said, a reminder to everyone he’s still battling back from those knee issues that sidelined him at the start of the season.

Wait, so he doesn’t know what highly-touted company he’s joined after scoring his 400th goal?

“No idea,” he admitted. “I haven’t checked to be honest with you.”

His teammates have been paying closer attention.

“It’s like every other night, there’s some kind of stat getting thrown out there,” Pavelski said of following his teammates' accomplishments. “They’re fun to look at, they really are.”

Defenseman Erik Karlsson has only been Thornton’s teammate for a little over a month. But since he has experience playing against No.19, he offered some perspective on what it was like for the Predators’ defense when Thornton came barreling down the ice.

“He’s one of those guys that you always have to be aware of,” Karlsson explained. “You always have to be aware of where he is because he’s such a good hockey player and if he gets the opportunities, you know he’s going to make you pay.”

Of course, the goal couldn’t have been made possible without the beautiful set-up from Sorensen, who Thornton has had a lot of success playing with as of late. 

“Marcus made a great play,” Thornton complimented. “I love playing with him. It seems like we’ve got some chemistry together now.”

When asked what it was like contributing to the milestone goal, Sorensen kept his answer straight-forward.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I’m happy for him.”

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.