Several Sharks to consider Europe if locked out

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Several Sharks to consider Europe if locked out

SAN JOSE The countdown is on, as NHL Lockout 2012 approaches, but the majority of the San Jose Sharks are still enjoying their ice time, workout room and locker room as they prepare for a season that will almost certainly be delayed.
RELATED: NHL Board approves lockout if no new CBA
Theres a good chance, though, that the players who gathered on Thursday at Sharks Ice for another captains skate will be lacing up their skates in rinks in various corners of the world if the work stoppage drags on. The lockout begins Saturday at 9:00 p.m. PST if no deal is reached.

If the owners say they cant play here, there are more than a few options abroad.

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You want to play games. You train all summer, and thats what you work for, said defenseman Justin Braun, who inked a three-year contract extension in the offseason and admitted that Europe could be an option. You dont want to just keep training. Not that you slack on it, but it just gets old, and you might not have that drive as much. Games really keep you fresh and get you ready for when the season starts here.

TJ Galiardi said: I think everyone obviously wants to play here, but if thats not an option, youve got to look somewhere else. Youve got to stay sharp, because when it eventually comes back, you dont want to be sloppy and a step behind.

It was evident on Thursday morning that some players are remaining more hopeful than others that an 11th-hour deal will be struck, although press conferences from union head Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman only seemed to establish how entrenched each side is in terms of its respective position. In other words, the sides arent close.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, for example, said he hasnt even thought about playing somewhere else yet this fall.

My only thought is to play this year in the NHL, said the 25-year-old. Hopefully we can. If we dont, Ill have to think about it after.

Finlands Antti Niemi and Czech native Marty Havlat have also not given Europe a whole lot of thought, although Havlat said he could likely play for his hometown team of HC Sparta Praha, where he spent the previous lockout in 2004-05.

Well see whats going to happen Saturday, and well go from there, Havlat said.

A report surfaced last week that several European teams have expressed interest in Sharks sniper Logan Couture, who tied for the team lead with 31 goals last season. At just 23 years old and coming off of summer shoulder surgery, Couture seems like the perfect candidate to begin the season overseas if the NHL season is delayed.

Yeah, I think so, if its a long time, Couture said, when asked if hes considering it. Everyone wants to play. Wed have to look at other options if it goes for awhile, so well see when the time comes. We dont know how long or even if its going to happen right now.

Still, Couture said: We want to play in the NHL, this is the best league in the world.

Older players like Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle went through this circus once already. Thornton spent the last NHL season of 2004-05 in Switzerland, where he eventually met his wife and still maintains a residence, while Boyle suited up for a Swedish team.

Last month, Thornton denied a report out of Switzerland (through his agent and brother, John) that he had already made plans to start the season there in the event of a lockout. I asked Joe again today if he had given a return to HC Davos any more thought, now that another lockout is a near certainty.

Not really, he said. Once the owners say hey, youre locked out, Ill probably look at it a lot harder. Until the 15th, Im here and ready to play and thinking about this upcoming season. I havent really thought about going anywhere, and I hope I dont have to. Hopefully they get it figured out."

But...

When that lockout comes, Ill have to think about doing something, yeah.

Boyle wont be going anywhere this time around, opting to stay local and close to his two daughters and wait it out, but he encourages the younger players on the team to explore their options.

Im glad I went. It was a good experience, Boyle said. For the guys that havent gone its certainly its definitely a change. Its a different lifestyle. But, you only live once, so its something to experience.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”