Braun gives Sharks luxury on defense

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Braun gives Sharks luxury on defense

SAN JOSE We touched on this topic a bit this morning on Sharks Talk, and Fridays practice offered the opportunity to follow up on defenseman Justin Brauns strong play. The 24-year-old has been getting close to 20 minutes a game lately, after not even making the opening night roster.

Braun spent most of Thursday nights win over the Wild paired with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He played 19:23 in all, including 3:21 on the power play. To put that in perspective, prized offseason acquisition Brent Burns played 19:34, with 4:07 of that on the power play.

Nearly identical numbers. And thats not a knock on Burns, but a credit to Braun.

KURZ: Is Braun taking minutes from Burns?

I mentioned to McLellan that having Braun in the fold, adding to the teams defensive depth, must feel like a real luxury.

Isnt it nice? And its something we wanted, he said, somewhat emphatically. Just like Logan Couture did last year. Somebody to come in and take jobs, and steal time away. That push from underneath to the top is so valuable. It keeps everybody honest.

McLellan mentioned on Thursday that he sees a more confident Braun as compared with last season. I asked Braun what he himself thinks the difference is.

The comfort level, and just knowing what to expect every night, he said. Not wondering what other teams are going to bring, but just going out and playing my game.

Braun pointed out that the reason hes more confident is a two-way street. The coaching staff is showing him how secure they are in his ability, by upping his ice time which, in turn, makes him even more self-assured.

You want to be out there, and you feel like when youre playing those kind of minutes, theyre getting more confident in you which helps you on the ice, he said. If you maybe make a mistake, youre going to get a little bit more of a chance instead of getting sat down quickly.

His current partner, Vlasic, also sees a teammate improving before his very eyes.

Hes doing great. He got called up for a reason and is staying for the simple reason that hes playing well, said Vlasic. Hes even on the second power play, and sometimes the first one. Hes doing great things, hes getting pucks to the net, hes playing hard and playing well.

The flip side is that defensemen Jason Demers and Jim Vandermeer will have to wait to get back into the lineup. Demers has played in just two of the last nine games, while Vandermeer has sat for six of the previous seven.

McLellan admits he worries a bit about those players who are being forced to watch from the press box.

But, thats just the nature of the business.

Those guys, are very, very good players and they are very important, he said. But, until we have a bump in the road and until it falters, we like what were doing on the back end.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.