McLellan: Sharks take 'strides forward'

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McLellan: Sharks take 'strides forward'

DALLAS The Sharks probably deserved a better fate in Thursday nights loss to Dallas, and thats something that hasnt been true in some of the teams earlier and numerous defeats over the last five weeks.

Its probably why the head coach remained optimistic after the game, in which his team fell to four points back of the division lead after seemingly having it under control before a stretch of 13 losses in 17 games. (Although, some would say, McLellan doesn't have much choice this late in the season).

We took strides forward again, to where weve been and to where were going. Were climbing the hill, McLellan said. Were not there yet, but I thought we had a pretty good effort, and did a lot of things well for most of the game.

We had our opportunities in overtime with the power play. That was a little disappointing we only got two or three shots off. We could have had better looks there. When it gets to the shootout, its anyones game.

Hes right, in that the Sharks played their best game since, quite possibly, the 5-3 win over Chicago on Feb. 10 in what was their final game before the disastrous nine-game road trip sent the team on a downward spiral it has yet to fully recover from.

Other than the first five minutes, and last two minutes, the Sharks generally out-skated, out-chanced and outplayed the Stars. If not for Kari Lehtonens superb goaltending, San Jose could have had a comfortable lead at either of the first two intermissions.

Scoring chances were virtually non-existent in the first three games of a recent homestand, but the Sharks showed signs of generating more offensively against Edmonton in Tuesdays 3-2 shootout loss. That carried over into Thursdays game.

There was some good out there. There definitely was some good out there. Its tough to accept that when you dont get the two points and lose in a shootout both times, said Joe Pavelski, who scored late in the third period, but just missed on a glorious chance in front of the net in overtime.

There will be some nights coming up where those will go in, and well have plenty to win, McLellan said of the chances. Weve got to keep that part of it up, continue to work on our defensive game and go from there.

What also was encouraging to the coach is that some of his star players returned to the scoresheet. Pavelski and Marleau both ended five-game goalless droughts, while Joe Thornton had three assists after getting just one in the previous four games.

Were going to get it done with them. We wont without them, McLellan said of his big boys, before adding: We got some offense from some unusual suspects. Jim Vandermeer last game, Torrey Mitchell has been able to contribute. When you do it that way, you have a better chance of winning.

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.