Clowe optimistic about NHL CBA talks

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Clowe optimistic about NHL CBA talks

SAN JOSE Anyone who has read about or paid attention to the recent NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining negotiations knows theres been a dearth of optimism. The two sides remain far apart on core economic issues with just five days to go before the expiration of the current deal on September 15, and no formal meetings between the two sides are scheduled this week.

Ryane Clowe, however, offered a glimmer of hope - faint as it is - on Monday, after an informal practice at Sharks Ice that featured more than 20 NHL players and prospects.

I think when you get to these situations, people say why didnt you start negotiating sooner? But, it always seems to come down to the last minute anyway, Clowe said. Im guessing thats whats going to happen.

My feeling is that both sides want to get something done. I strongly believe that. When, and how soon? Maybe sooner rather than later, but thats just my gut feeling.

Make no mistake though, Clowe doesnt think a deal is imminent, and by no means is he declaring that he expects the season to start on time. Like every other member of the players association, the rugged Sharks forward of seven NHL seasons views the owners initial CBA proposals as unfair. The owners would like to significantly reduce what they are paying out in terms of player salaries from the 57 percent that was agreed to under the current CBA.

Increased revenue sharing from the big money makers, to the smaller clubs that struggle to generate enough money, remains a key issue for the players despite Gary Bettmans declaration that that particular issue is distracting.

We understand that if were going to give something back, we want the owners to do that also, and contribute, sad Clowe. We feel like with the proposal we made, it takes care of some of the issues as far as having a strong league in the future, and a healthy league.

Clowe doesnt foresee the players waiving that revenue sharing request, and is hopeful that the owners will reconsider their stance on the issue when they meet on Thursday.

We feel strongly about that. I dont feel like thats something thats going to change or come off the table.

The owners took some time, I think, to think about that one, and theres a Board of Governors meeting this week in New York, and I think what they discuss in there will be key for how we go ahead here.

Its believed that some of the big market clubs are, not surprisingly, reluctant to write bigger checks to some of the small market teams despite record revenues and the fact that theyve cashed in on extravagant expansion and relocation fees over the years. The league also has a new 10-year, 2 billion television contract with NBC set to begin.

The NHLPA will be holding meetings of its own in New York, and several hundred players are expected to attend. From the Sharks, Tommy Wingels, Brent Burns and Douglas Murray will be boarding a cross-country flight to sit in on the meetings led by union boss Donald Fehr. Murray, the Ivy League graduate from Cornell, has been involved in a number of sit-downs with Fehr and Bettman in recent weeks.

How do players not directly involved in the meetings stay up to date? Well, theres an app for that.

No, really.

You log in and read what went on for the day, and Fehr keeps us really informed, Logan Couture said.

Like Clowe, Couture is trying to remain optimistic as the deadline approaches. He recently returned to San Jose, as has most of the roster, in the hopes that training camp opens on time on September 21.

Were all here ready for the season to start, Couture said. Thats why you see so many guys here. We all came out early, working out together as a team and skating as a team. Were all getting ready for the season to start so well see what happens when the time comes, but right now were all getting prepared.

We all want to play the game we love. We play in the best league in the world, and we want it to start on time. Im sure all of us are optimistic, but as time gets closer and nothing happens, you can only start to get a little pessimistic.

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.

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Thornton, Marleau now permitted to speak with other teams

Their futures with the Sharks more uncertain than ever, pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are now free to take calls from other teams to gauge their potential interest.

Nothing can be signed with a new team before July 1, and there is a ban on discussing terms of any potential deal. Teams have already reached out to Marleau, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, while Thornton is also reportedly receiving interest around the league.

While they could still return to the Sharks, it’s new territory for both, as neither Thornton nor Marleau has ever tested the unrestricted free agent waters. Most recently, they agreed to three-year contract extensions with the Sharks on the same day – Jan. 24, 2014 – in what was the final year of their current deals.

Whether they return to the Sharks could depend on the length of the deal. If other teams are willing to offer multiple-year deals to Thornton and Marleau, it makes their return to the Sharks less likely – particularly in Marleau’s case. Earlier in the offseason, NBC Sports California confirmed that Thornton was seeking a three-year deal, while Marleau preferred a deal of at least three years.

General manager Doug Wilson’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign goalie Martin Jones and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long term extensions. Those contracts would likely cost the team a combined $12-14 million, and would begin in the 2018-19 season.

There is an added risk to any team that signs a player over the age of 35, as it would be on the hook for the entire salary cap hit regardless of whether that player is active (unless that player is on long-term injured reserve). 

Thornton turns 38 on Sunday, while Marleau turns 38 on Sep. 15.