Sharks

Thornton, Marleau inching closer to leaving Sharks

Thornton, Marleau inching closer to leaving Sharks

In less than 48 hours, the two men most associated with the San Jose Sharks for more than a decade could be packing their bags. It’s nearly impossible to picture the Sharks without Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but that may soon become a reality, as each player will be free to sign elsewhere at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

To be clear, the door hasn’t closed yet on either – or both – returning to San Jose. At the same time, there have been no indications that the Sharks are remotely close to coming to an agreement with either one. The chances that the Sharks announce anything with either player before Saturday’s opening bell are slim to none.

There will be concrete offers on the table from other teams to ponder, and based on reports since the window opened on Sunday for them to speak with other clubs, there will plenty of them.

In Thornton’s case, a recent report had the Los Angeles Kings in hot pursuit. That doesn’t mean the Kings are his most likely destination, just that more information leaked out of Southern California than anywhere else. You can be sure that there is plenty of interest elsewhere for Thornton’s services, and although he may prefer to stay close to the Bay Area if he doesn’t remain with the Sharks, other teams like the Rangers, Blues, Predators, Penguins or Maple Leafs might be more appealing.

As for Marleau, his name has been linked to the Ducks, Predators, Maple Leafs and Flames – with Calgary, especially, looking more like a potential fit as it’s driving distance from his hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan – but, again, there are certain to be more teams than those listed that have inquired about his services.

In recent days, some credible national reporters have pointed out that Marleau returning to San Jose is of vital importance to Thornton, which is consistent with what we reported back on May 22. Frankly, it seems that not much has changed since that piece, as hopeful Sharks fans have come to realize there were never any back-room handshake agreements with the pair for after the June 21 expansion draft.

But it’s worth repeating that Thornton does, in fact, want to win with his longtime teammate by his side. 

Back on Jan. 14, 2014, when the Sharks announced three-year contract extensions for both, Thornton’s deal had been done for some time. He preferred to wait for Marleau’s to be done, too, so they could announce them on the same day. That’s further evidence of how much Thornton respects the longest-tenured Sharks player, and how he may only want to come back to San Jose if the Sharks get Marleau signed, too.

If that’s a hill that Thornton is willing to die on, it could mean they will both depart. Put another way, if the Sharks aren’t willing to extend multi-year offers to both Thornton and Marleau, it may be the end of an era.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

It's not clear when the Sharks will play next.

One star took a big step towards rejoining them when they do.

Tomas Hertl posted a video Wednesday on his Instagram of him skating in his native Czech Republic, writing that he was "[f]inally back" on the ice.

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Finally back 🏒 @filipchlapik @hertlik89

A post shared by Tomas Hertl (@hertlik48) on

Hertl, 26, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in January and missed the final 18 games of the Sharks' season before it was suspended -- and, ultimately, ended -- due to the coronavirus pandemic. The center injured his knee on Jan. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks, just four days after playing in his first All-Star Game. 

The 2012 first-round pick was one of the lone bright spots in the Sharks' otherwise dreary season, scoring 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. San Jose generated 56.76 percent of the expected goals and 54.38 percent of the high-danger chances with Hertl on the ice at full strength, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Hertl himself accounted for his highest rate of 5-on-5 expected goals (0.95 per hour) of any season other than his rookie year.

Hertl said in May that he expected to be ready to start the 2020-21 season, no matter when that is.

"I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away," Hertl said at the time. "My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”

[RELATED: Thornton reportedly could play in Switzerland before NHL season]

Hertl's return to the ice marks an offseason milestone for the forward, who's signed through 2022.

He and his wife, Aneta, announced last month that they're expecting a baby in November.

'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.