Competition among Sharks forwards

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Competition among Sharks forwards

Go ahead and ink in Joe Thornton, centering Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. There's San Jose's top line to begin the season. And it's pretty clear to see Todd McLellan following that with Logan Couture, flanked by Ryane Clowe and Martin Havlat. That's a proven, potent top 6 to shoulder some heavy minutes.But how will the Sharks other six forwards shake out this season? Besides the assumed obvious of Michal Handzus centering the 3rd line... there are a lot of uncertainties... things written in pencil... translation, jobs for the taking. Seems like you might have a fair amount of competition at camp, coach?
"Those positions are wide open," McLellan told me. And then he expanded."We've done this in the past, where we've opened up some spots for youth. In that case they're just happy to make the team, and we're not going to stand for that. That's not what we're about. They have to make the team, then make an impact. Night in and night out they bring something to the table that can affect the outcome of a game and we expect to see it from them this year," said the 4th year Sharks head coach.Torrey Mitchell is another player who most feel is a logical choice on the 3rd line; a quick skater who could bring energy and help forecheck the opponent deep in their own end during some very important shifts. He broke down the subliminal benefits of internal competition among players at Sharks training camp."It pushes guys to the limit," said Mitchell. "It puts guys in uncomfortable positions, mentally and physically. We have that in our training camp, and that's all you can ask for, as coaches, and for (General Manager) Doug Wilson."Wilson, by the way, is a huge proponent of competition in camp."If you dont like competition, you're in the wrong business," the GM told me.He mentioned two players who have previously seized opportunities with the team, through internal competition: Logan Couture and Andrew Desjardins. Couture, was the youngest player on the Sharks last year who through much effort, developed from prospect to very important piece, very quickly. Desjardins spent much of the season with San Jose's AHL affiliate, but proved his worth there impressing upon coaches, and earned notable roles in the Sharks postseason run. Simply put, the chemistry of youth, and healthy internal competition, has the chance to greatly help San Jose become a deeper team. As well, it will likely leave things fairly wide open until the start of the regular season. Said Wilson: "The opportunity is there, if you want to take a spot on this team, go earn it."

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.