Sharks

Sharks re-sign young centers Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela to contracts

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Sharks re-sign young centers Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela to contracts

The Sharks continued to fill out their roster for next season Thursday, re-signing a pair of restricted free-agent forwards who could be in the mix for more playing time next season and reportedly locking up their remainder of their restricted free agents as well.

San Jose re-signed forwards Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela to two- and one-year contracts, respectively, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson announced Thursday. They reportedly also signed blue liners Nick DeSimone and Kyle Wood, as well as forward Maxim Letunov, according to Cap Friendly.

The Sharks did not disclose contract terms for Gambrell and Suomela, per club policy, but each deal reportedly is worth $700,000 annually, Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka reported. 

Gambrell's contract reportedly is a two-way deal -- meaning he will be played less if sent down to the minors -- in the first year and a one-way in the second, according to Fear the Fin's Sheng Peng. 

Gambrell, 22, played eight regular-season games with the Sharks in 2018-19 and two more in the playoffs. He scored his first NHL goal in Game 6 of the Western Conference final against the St. Louis Blues, and should be in the mix for a regular role on the fourth line following San Jose's offseason departures up front. A second-round pick in 2016, Gambrell also scored 38 points (16 goals, 22 assists) in 40 games with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda. 

"Dylan had success at the AHL level with the Barracuda this past season, helping to lead the league's youngest team to another Calder Cup playoff berth," Wilson said in a statement. "He has continued to show us growth in all areas of his game, and, with his goal in Game 6 of the Western Conference final, has proven he can handle the pressure of the NHL. We look forward to his continued development, and the impact he will have on the Sharks."

Suomela, 25, ended training camp last season as the Sharks' presumptive third-line center, flanked by Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane. The Finnish forward played in 27 of the Sharks' first 30 games and scored eight points (three goals, five assists), but was sent down to the Barracuda on Dec. 11 and did not return to the NHL. He scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 34 AHL games. 

"Antti will be looking to build off of his first year in North America and we are excited to see where he takes his game this coming season," Wilson said in a statement. "He has shown that he can adjust his game to the smaller rink and we are looking forward to him competing for a spot on our NHL roster this season."

DeSimone, 24, is yet to make his NHL debut but scored 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) in 65 AHL games last season. The right-shooting defenseman, whom the Sharks signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, tied for sixth among AHL blue liners in points and seventh in goals, and was recalled in a couple of instances when the Sharks needed an extra defenseman due to injuries. The Sharks re-signed Tim Heed and signed Dalton Prout to one-year deals, so the right side of defense appears set behind Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. But, DeSimone could be in the mix for an in-season call-up.

Wood and Letunov, 23, both are coming off of their first seasons with the Barracuda. Both players were acquired in separate trades with the Arizona Coyotes, and Wood scored 35 points (six goals, 29 assists) from the Barracuda's blue line last season. Letunov, who played three seasons at the University of Connecticut, scored 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in his first pro season last year. 

[RELATED: Are rival Kings any better after free agency?]

With all players reportedly locked in for the league-minimum salary, the Sharks maintain salary-cap flexibility no matter how their training-camp competitions shake out. With each of his restricted free agents now under contract, Wilson can shift his attention to re-signing Joe Thornton. 

San Jose currently has just under $4.7 million remaining in cap space, according to Cap Friendly. Thornton's contract was worth $5 million last season, but Wilson said the 39-year-old was willing to take less than he ultimately signed for in each of the last two years if it meant the Sharks retained Patrick Marleau in 2017 and signed John Tavares in 2018. Marleau is now a free agent after the Carolina Hurricanes bought out the final year of his contract following a trade from the cap-crunched Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Sharks would appear to have enough room to reunite Marleau and Thornton. 

'Red Penguins' tells wild story of NHL team's foray into Russian hockey

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'Red Penguins' tells wild story of NHL team's foray into Russian hockey

Vodka, violence and victory.

“Red Penguins,” a documentary released by Universal for streaming On Demand on Tuesday, chronicles the brief foray by the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins into ownership of a Russian professional hockey team. The film features plenty of vodka and violence, although victory proved to be elusive.

Penguins owners Tom Ruta and Steven Baldwin made the decision to invest in the struggling club HC CSKA Moscow, which previously had been controlled by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. Steven Warshaw, then the Penguins' vice president for sales and marketing, was the man tasked with overseeing the day-to-day operations on the ground in Moscow, and guides you through all of the unbelievable twists and turns that came with bringing American ideals of organizational structure and capitalism into a society that was amid a transition from decades of communism.

An in-arena strip club, live bears serving beer and a near nine-figure partnership with Disney are just part of what came to define the Penguins’ wild reign behind the Iron Curtain.

Director Gabe Polsky utilizes Warshaw and his enigmatic personality to tell the majority of the story, but also includes interviews from Russia with the team’s former mascot and broadcaster in Moscow, as well as former Red Army manager Valery Gushin, who developed a unique relationship with Warshaw that was both friendly and contentious.

The crew had to traverse some dangerous ground in collecting the interviews, and even had one interview interrupted by KGB officials.

“This overweight man was just sort of standing behind us for like, way more longer than comfortable,” Polsky said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area last week. “Within a couple minutes, the police show up and you hear it, and start saying ‘get the hell out of here,’ and basically they thought there was a bomb nearby.”

Equal parts hilarious and chilling, “Red Penguins” showcases the wildest aspects of running a professional sports franchise in Russia while detailing the danger and sadness that can be a consequence of doing business parallel to an organized crime syndicate.

Polsky, who is the son of Soviet immigrants to the United States, believes American hockey fans and sports fans in general can get a unique look at the complicated relationship between the two world superpowers, and how that dynamic both brought the Penguins immense popularity in Russia and led to their downfall.

“Almost no films out there, that are English-speaking, that take the audience into Russia,” Polsky said. “Seeing the people, understand the psychology, mentality, up against the American mentality, and you see it even more clearly.

“There’s a lot to kind of unpack and understand in this film.”

Whether you’re a Sharks fan, a general sports fan or even just someone who enjoys a compelling story involving international relations, “Red Penguins” will have you glued to your screen. 

NHL rumors: Sharks' Joe Thornton could play in Switzerland before season

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USATSI

NHL rumors: Sharks' Joe Thornton could play in Switzerland before season

The Sharks' 2019-20 season came to an end on March 11, and the 2020-21 NHL season might not start until December. So what are the players not participating in the NHL restart to do during that six-month hiatus?

Joe Thornton might play hockey in Switzerland. Really. Seriously.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman first reported Friday that the 22-year NHL veteran could take advantage of a new clause implemented by the NHL and NHLPA.

"Every August, [Thornton] goes to Switzerland," Friedman said on "Hockey Night In Canada" on Saturday. "Now we know the Sharks won't be playing until December and the NHL and the NHLPA have allowed players to sign overseas with out-clauses to come back then. One of the storylines to watch in the summer, over the next month, does Joe Thornton sign overseas in Switzerland to play and be ready and in better shape, even to return to the NHL for his 23rd season, whenever it begins."

The Athletic's Kevin Kurz confirmed Saturday the possibility of Thornton playing in Switzerland until the 2020-21 season begins.

Thornton is an unrestricted free agent, and has made it clear he wants to play in the NHL for a few more years. Lacing up his skates in Switzerland could be a good way for the 41-year-old center to stay in shape.

The Sharks finished the 2019-20 season with the worst record in the Western Conference and have several restricted and unrestricted free agents they will try to re-sign. General manager Doug Wilson and the Sharks front office have just under $15 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

It's unclear at this point if the Sharks plan to bring Thornton back for a 16th season with the franchise, but captain Logan Couture told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in March that he hopes the stoppage caused by the coronavirus pandemic will allow Thornton to return for another season.

[RELATED: Ex-Sharks to root for in NHL restart]

“I look at this selfishly for Jumbo, hoping that he does come back with us next year," Couture told Brazil. “You know it saves an extra 12 games on those legs and that body of wear and tear, I know he’s gonna get a little bit older, but I think saving some time on that body will help us if he does come back with the Sharks, which I know we’re all hoping that he does.”

Thornton's future with the Sharks is unclear at the moment, but it looks like he'll be skating around an ice rink in Switzerland soon.