SAN JOSE – There’s always turnover on an NHL roster year-to-year, and the Sharks are no different in that regard now that the Stanley Cup Final has come and gone.
Just about all of the key cogs, though, are signed through next season or under team control as restricted free agents. Among players who saw time in the playoffs only depth guys Dainius Zubrus, Roman Polak, Nick Spaling and James Reimer are free to test the open market.
“We have a great group, we really do. We all love being around each other,” Joe Thornton said. “The coaches did a tremendous job. They were huge for us this year. Everybody is going to come back, and we’ll be hungrier.”
Pete DeBoer said: “We made no secret of how much we enjoyed this group. I thought they had great chemistry. I thought they worked well together. We enjoyed being around them.”
One player's status, though, is in doubt, and he just so happens to be the longest tenured player in franchise history as well as its all-time leading scorer.
Patrick Marleau just completed his 18th season in teal, after it was widely reported in November and confirmed by several sources to CSN California that he was pursuing a trade elsewhere. That chatter faded in the second half, though, as the club surged in the standings.
Marleau preferred not to discuss any of the trade talk during the season - although he never flatly denied it - and was asked again on Monday if he wanted to remain with the Sharks organization next season, the final year of a three-year contract.
“Yeah, I have a contract for next year, so looking forward to it,” Marleau said.
Is it his first choice to be a Shark? “Yeah.”
It was concise – not atypical for Marleau – but still not overly convincing.
There were signs throughout the postseason, too, that perhaps Marleau and DeBoer weren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye. During the Kings series, DeBoer suggested that he and Marleau didn’t always agree on his role. In the Western Conference Final, the coach responded to a question about how he decides whether to play Marleau as the third line center or second line wing.
“You balance are you better as a team, and is the individual better? That's the balance. I'm not here to make Patrick Marleau feel good. We're here to win games, and we're going to put him wherever we feel we have to to win games,” DeBoer said on May 16.
Marleau didn’t express any annoyance on Monday about moving up and down the lineup. After playing virtually the entire second half of the regular season as the third line center, he was bumped up Logan Couture’s left wing from the midway point of the second round through the Final, finishing the playoffs with 13 points (5g, 8a) in 24 games.
“I’m used to both,” Marleau said. “Started out as a center, when I did move to wing it was a little bit of a learning curve for me, but I’ve been going back and forth for awhile now.”
He finished the regular season with 48 points (25g, 23a), although only 22 points came at even strength – tied for eighth on the team with defenseman Justin Braun. He also had a team-worst minus-22 rating.
“I think I still have better, coming off the [2013-14 season] where I was injured a little bit. This year was a little bit different with [Couture’s first half injuries], and moving around a little bit from center to wing, and things like that. The goal total went up a little bit, but I still think I can do better than that.”
Marleau turns 37 on Sep. 15, and carries a salary cap hit of $6.67 million. He has a no-trade clause, although was willing to waive it earlier in the season to go to Los Angeles, Anaheim or the New York Rangers.