Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau might not be on NHL rosters at the moment, but both are staying active.
Former Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff posted a photo with the duo from a locker room at San Jose's practice facility Monday.
Ehrhoff, 37, is younger than Marleau, 39, and Thornton, 40, but the German blue liner is retired and his old teammates seem to be gearing up for another season. Marleau and Thornton currently are unrestricted free agents, and both have said they intend to play in 2019-20.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes in a salary dump earlier this offseason, and the Hurricanes bought out Marleau's contract after he informed the team he wanted to play closer to his family after they moved back to San Jose. He told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun that a reunion with the Sharks "would be a good fit for me for sure."
Thornton, meanwhile, told reporters at June's NHL Awards he wanted to return for (at least) one more season. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said earlier this offseason he would give Thornton "all the time he needs to make whatever decision's right for him," and his photo with Ehrhoff adds credence to the idea it's a matter of when -- not if -- he re-signs with San Jose.
The Sharks have just under $4.7 million in salary-cap space with 11 forwards under contract, according to Cap Friendly. Both players made more than that last season, but Thornton made $3 million less than he did in 2017-18 and Marleau is owed just under $3 million from the Hurricanes after his buyout. Thus, it's conceivable San Jose has enough room to re-sign Thornton and bring back Marleau.
For now, with just over a month before the Sharks' preseason opener on Sept. 17, the waiting game continues. But Ehrhoff's Instagram post is just another indication the two longest-tenured players in San Jose history intend to play next season.