Sharks get back to roots and back in win column against Flames

Sharks get back to roots and back in win column against Flames

SAN JOSE - When Sharks winger Evander Kane opened the scoring 50 seconds into Sunday’s game against the Calgary Flames, it looked as though San Jose was already on the way to notching a victory.

But as captain Joe Pavelski pointed out afterwards, getting out to a quick lead doesn’t always result in keeping it.

“We’ve proven it this year, if you don’t keep playing it can disappear quick.,” he said.  “It’s not the end of the game if you get off to a good start or fall behind.”

Sunday night’s 3-1 win over the Flames was different, though. The Sharks kicked off a season-long, six-game with a better collective effort than they had in their previous games. They didn't sag in the defensive end, and kept the Flames from making a big push.

“I thought we tightened things up and played a better brand of hockey than we’ve played the last couple of games,” coach Peter DeBoer summarized. “More characteristic of how we want to play.”

“I thought we played a consistent game throughout,” Kane agreed. “Working for one another, supporting one another. Fast and just moving our legs. That was the key to success for our entire team – and especially with our line tonight.”

That line was, without a doubt, a catalyst in Sunday’s victory. The combination of Pavelski, Kane, and Joonas Donskoi was responsible for all three of San Jose’s goals on the evening, generating the kind of offense they did together late last season after Kane was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres. 

It has taken a couple games to get that chemistry going again, but it was on full display Sunday. Kane's spectacular dish from behind Calgary's net set up Donskoi for a one-timer in the second period, adding the eventual winning goal to the trio's growing highlight reel. 

“I think yesterday we had a good practice and talked a little bit before the game about getting back to what we did well last year,” Kane explained. “We started off really well, obviously with getting the goal and everybody touching the puck. Had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t finish on tonight as well.”

“We got to play in the o-zone, it’s more fun that way than getting it stuffed down your throat every night,” Pavelski said.

The captain added he thought that offensive surge was something they could build off of. The Sharks will need  thatas the homestand continues.

After losing two straight on the road last week, San Jose needs positive momentum with tough competition like the Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs coming into town. There’s no denying getting the home win after the tough road trip was a big deal.

“It’s a huge win, reset our game,” DeBoer said. “This league is about limiting your losing streaks and extending your winning streaks. We want to make sure we nip we nip that in the bud tonight.”

NHL rumors: Patrick Marleau only wants trade to Sharks by Maple Leafs


NHL rumors: Patrick Marleau only wants trade to Sharks by Maple Leafs

As he's linked to a trade away from salary cap-strapped Toronto, Maple Leafs winger Patrick Marleau reportedly has one destination in mind above all else this offseason. 

Marleau, the longest-tenured player in Sharks history, wants to return to San Jose, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos said during a Tuesday appearance on "Prime Time Sports" on Sportsnet 590 in Toronto. A reunion won't be so simple, according to Kypreos.

"So right now, my understanding is San Jose's not sure yet," Kypreos said. "[Sharks general manager] Doug Wilson's in a position to say, 'Yeah, maybe I'm interested, but not certainly at the price of the last year of the contract.' So, I would probably believe that a third team would need to get involved, a team that needs to get to the [salary] floor. The Leafs would have to entice that team to take [Marleau's] contract, and have to give up something. And then if [the third team] were to buy out Marleau, then San Jose could come in and sign him at a number that they're satisfied with."

Marleau, who will turn 40 in September, is entering the final year of a three-year, $18.75 million contract that he signed with the Leafs in 2017. He has a full no-movement clause, and can veto any potential trade.

The veteran forward is coming off his worst offensive season (37 points) since he was a rookie, and the Leafs reportedly want to trade him in order to clear enough cap space to re-sign pending restricted free agent winger Mitch Marner. Marleau took Marner and Leafs star Auston Matthews under his wing in his first two seasons in Toronto, but he’s no longer creating offense or driving play as well as he once did. 

While the Leafs can retain up to 50 percent of Marleau's cap hit -- or $3.125 million -- in any trade, that's still likely a bit rich for what the forward brings to the table at this point in his career. Throw in the Sharks' own cap concerns, as evidenced by trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers one day after making Erik Karlsson the NHL's highest-paid defenseman, and it's hard to envision a trade outside of the three-team scenario that Kypreos outlined.

With recent reports indicating the salary cap might rise to $82 million rather than the $83 million the NHL first projected, San Jose would have about $15.3 million in cap space with just seven forwards under contract. Toronto retaining salary still might not leave enough space for the Sharks to re-sign their cadre of free agents. Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi all can hit the market as unrestricted free agents, and Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are due to hit restricted free agency. 

[RELATED: What should the Sharks do with Joakim Ryan?]

Pursuing a post-buyout Marleau is another matter entirely. He remains a popular figure among fans and his former teammates alike, but Marleau's production is more in line with a bottom-six forward at this stage of his career. The Sharks didn't get enough production from depth forwards in the playoffs, and it's possible that returning to his longtime NHL home with his family in pursuit of his -- and the franchise's -- first Stanley Cup would rejuvenate Marleau.

But as things stand right now, Marleau is a Maple Leaf, and the Sharks have more pressing priorities. 

Sharks' Joe Thornton 'feels great', will return for 22nd NHL season

Sharks' Joe Thornton 'feels great', will return for 22nd NHL season

It's sounding like Joe Thornton will be back with the Sharks next season.

Thornton had previously expressed that if he were to return for a 22nd NHL season, it would indeed be with San Jose.

"I’m a Shark,” Thornton said at the Sharks' end-of-season availability. “There’s one team, and it’s here.”

At the NHL Awards media availability on Tuesday, Thornton eliminated whatever mystery remained and confirmed he would put off retirement for at least another year, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Thornton went even further while clarifying his comments to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

Thornton can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but it's fully expected he and San Jose will come to an agreement on a contract -- a task made somewhat easier by the trade of defensemen Justin Braun on Tuesday morning, which provides some much-needed salary cap relief.

[RELATED: Sharks trade Braun to Flyers, acquire two draft picks]

"He can have all the time he needs to make whatever decision’s right for him," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said of Thornton back in May. "But we love him. I think I’ve been in this business a long time, I’ve never met anyone like him and we cherish the days we have him."

Thornton's announcement Tuesday would seem to indicate there are plenty of more days left to cherish.