Sharks

Sharks players hope NHL participates in 2018 Olympics

Sharks players hope NHL participates in 2018 Olympics

There is exactly one year and one day before the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and still there is no word on whether NHL players will be participating on that world stage.

If the season does shut down for the Olympics in 2018, as it has every four years since the Nagano games in 1998, there will undoubtedly be some Sharks that will play for their respective countries. Several have participated in the games before, including Patrick Marleau, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and perhaps some others would be in line for their first Olympics.

The consensus among some of them polled is that they think the NHL players belong in the games, a message echoed consistently by other players throughout the league. 

“Yeah, I think for our sport and everything, for the players, it’s a cool event [and] special,” said Pavelski, who served as captain of Team USA in the World Cup last September. “It means a lot. Players want to go.”

Couture said: “It would be weird without the NHL players there, obviously. I grew up watching NHL players playing in it, so for me, it would be weird to not see some NHL guys there.”

Marleau won a pair of gold medals with Team Canada, including the most recent games in 2014 in Sochi.

“It’s hard to imagine [players not going] now that we’ve been going there for awhile,” Marleau said. “You want the best playing against the best, and you need NHL players in order to do that.”

From the league’s perspective, though, the indications are it would be just fine skipping the games this time around.

At the All-Star Game less than two weeks ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman questioned whether it’s worth it for the NHL to shut down in the second half of the season, thereby forcing another condensed schedule and risking injuries to players whose NHL teams are in the midst of a playoff push. The Islanders’ John Tavares, for example, missed the rest of the season after hurting his knee in an Olympic quarterfinal game in 2014.

"The focus from the club standpoint is, what does the disruption to our season mean and how do we deal with it and how problematic has it become?” Bettman said, via NHL.com.

"It's particularly been highlighted this year with some dissatisfaction with the schedule, which was a combination of, to some extent, the [World Cup in September] and, to some extent, the five-day [bye weeks] that the Players' Association insisted on. So the clubs are very concerned about the competitiveness of our season, the health and well-being of our players, whether or not there is fatigue. From our standpoint, we are very focused on the disruption to the NHL season."

Vlasic – never one to hold back his opinion when it comes to league matters – wondered why it’s acceptable for the NHL teams to risk injury and have a condensed schedule for a league-generated tournament like the World Cup, but not for the Olympics, of which there is really no financial benefit to the NHL other than exposure.

“Condensed schedule, we had it this year because of the World Cup. So, it’s OK for the World Cup and not the Olympics?” Vlasic asked.

“We’re hockey players that play in the NHL, but as the best athletes [we] should have the right to go to the Olympics. I was fortunate enough to experience it once, and would love to go again. If guys that haven’t experienced it get a chance to go, they should. We should. Hopefully, they reach an agreement.”

On Wednesday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that he believes the drop dead date for a final Olympic decision is “still likely a full month away.”

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

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Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

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Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.