Sharks don't disagree with Canucks' "arrogance"

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Sharks don't disagree with Canucks' "arrogance"

SAN JOSE Recently retired and future Hall of Fame winger Mark Recchi made news around the hockey world with some disparaging comments about the Vancouver Canucks last week.

Recchi was a member of last seasons Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, who defeated the Canucks in seven intense games in the Final.

Recchi told Gresh & Zo on 98.5 the Sports Hub:
In 22 years they are the most arrogant team I played against and the most hated team Ive ever played against. I couldnt believe their antics, their falling and diving. It was very frustrating, but at the same time as the series wore on we knew we were getting to them and we knew our physical play and our skating, I think it caught them off guard a little bit.

With the Sharks set to face off on Saturday against the Canucks, who ended San Joses season last May, a couple of the Sharks were asked on Friday about Recchis controversial sentiments.

Recchi was obviously a very well-respected player in this league for many years, and still is very respected, said Douglas Murray. For him saying something like that probably means something."

So, does Murray disagree with Recchi?

No. No. I dont think so, he said, before adding, its not the whole team. Its certain individuals that give them that reputation. Im not going to call out names. Its obvious for anyone that watches the game.

While Murray didnt want to single anyone out, Ryane Clowe had no problem naming a few players on the Canucks that inspire some ill will, like to trash talk and maybe take the occasional dive to draw a penalty.

Theyve got certain guys, and they have Maxim Lapierre there who is known for that," said Clowe. "Hes known to run his mouth and play that sort of game. He doesnt really like backing that up. You have Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows who used to do that a little bit more. Apparently the last year, and last couple of years, theyve tried to not talk as much and just play.

Kesler has kind of turned the page a little bit, but they have some whiners and stuff over there, said Murray.

Clowe, like Murray, also didn't find it necessary to oppose Recchis viewpoint.

Recchi said it. Im not going to disagree with him, said Clowe. I think the teams that played against them last year in the playoffs felt similar feelings.

Its a new year, though, and Saturday night at HP Pavilion is the first chance that Sharks will get to see this years version of the Canucks.

The Canucks havent been nearly as impressive so far this season as compared to last. They have already dropped nine games in regulation a quarter of the way through (11-9-1), after losing just 19 all of last year.

The Sharks were 1-2-1 against Vancouver in the 2010-11 regular season before the Canucks eliminated them in five games in the Western Conference Finals. It was that playoff loss that may have forced the Sharks to make the offseason moves that they did, according to Todd McLellan.

We needed to adjust and make some changes. Weve made them, he said. Were in the process of putting it all together and molding it, and that takes us to the 20-game plateau. Thats just where we are right now.

Clowe expects an emotional game on Saturday, which will be broadcast north of the border for Hockey Night in Canada.

You know its going to be a physical game, and, I guess, a mans game, so you prepare yourself that way, he said. You get adjusted for that mentally, and it gets you in the game a little more.

Theyre not our favorite team, thats for sure.

Odds and ends: Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks. Vancouver plays on Friday night in Phoenix before flying to San Jose immediately following. Antero Niittymaki was seen on the ice on Friday morning at Sharks Ice, taking a few shots for the first time. He left before the rest of the team began practice, though.

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

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AP

Sharks sign defenseman from Czech Republic

The Sharks have signed Czech defenseman Radim Simek to a one-year contract.

The two-way deal, originally reported by Radio Praha in the Czech Republic, is expected to be announced by the Sharks later this week, according to a source. Simek just finished competing for his country in the 2017 IIHF World Championships, skating in all eight games for the Czech Republic while posting one goal, one assist, 11 shots and a minus-two rating.

Simek, 24, has spent the last five seasons in the Czech League. In 42 games for Liberec in 2016-17, he posted 24 points (11g, 13a) and 30 penalty minutes with a plus-18 rating. A left-handed shot, he is listed at five-foot-11 and 196 pounds on the IIHF website.

The New York Rangers were also interested in Simek, according to the report.

Simek will likely begin next season with the AHL Barracuda.

The Sharks have signed a number of free agents out of Europe in recent seasons, including Joonas Donskoi in 2015 and Marcus Sorensen and Tim Heed last May.

 

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

Future with Sharks still uncertain for Thornton, Marleau

More than four weeks have passed since the Sharks were dispatched by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau appear no closer to signing contract extensions than when the season ended. 

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson faces some of the toughest decisions of his 14-year tenure as the head of the hockey department in the coming weeks, beginning with the two best players in franchise history.

And, no, there are no back room handshake deals here between the Sharks and either of Thornton or Marleau, allowing the Sharks to protect extra players in the upcoming expansion draft. The two veterans are still pending unrestricted free agents in the truest sense, and it’s no certainty that either will return to San Jose.

* * *

Re-signing Thornton would seem to be more of a priority than re-signing Marleau, as centermen are more valuable than wingers. Thornton’s line, with Joe Pavelski and whoever the left wing happened to be, was still drawing the opposition’s top defense pair on many nights this season. Marleau was on that line at times, but was shuffled up and down throughout the year, spending about half the season on the third line.

Thornton apparently dodged disaster in terms of his left knee, as multiple sources have told NBC Sports California that the brunt of the damage was to his MCL, not his ACL. As long as he recovers fully, as expected, there’s reason to believe that Thornton could be better next season than he was in 2016-17. Last year’s Stanley Cup Final run, the World Cup, and the condensed schedule seemed to take their toll. Thornton, who typically downplays anything remotely negative, admitted more than once that this season in particular was a grind.

But perhaps just as important to the Sharks is what Thornton brings to the team emotionally. Pavelski may still be the captain – and an effective one, at that – but Thornton is still the heartbeat. Pete DeBoer made that clear after Game 2 of the first round against the Oilers, talking about what Thornton’s absence from the bench in those first two games meant to the team in terms of a bench presence.

“It’s old school accountability with Joe. It’s black and white,” DeBoer said. “He came up in an era and at a time and around people who you weren’t worried about hurting feelings. You said what needed to be said. That’s not always the case now in modern dressing rooms and with modern athletes. He’s a great resource for us, because there’s no greater pressure than peer pressure, especially from a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

So what might it take to retain Thornton and keep him from hitting the open market? 

It has been previously reported that Thornton wanted a three-year deal, and that remains the case. As for money, I would expect Thornton – who has taken hometown discounts in the past to stay in San Jose – to ask for at least $5 million per season, minimum. Our best guess here is that a Thornton-Sharks pre-July 1 agreement would probably look something like three years and somewhere between $15 – 17 million.

Whether the Sharks would be willing to make that kind of commitment to Thornton, who will be 38 in July, is unclear. If they are not, Thornton could listen to offers from other teams beginning on June 24, when the window opens for unrestricted free agents to speak with other teams.

Still, Thornton’s first choice is to remain in San Jose. The Sharks don’t have anyone that could replace him on or off the ice. There should be a deal to be made here, either sooner or later.

* * *

Marleau’s future with the Sharks seems much hazier.

Unlike Thornton – who put up with public ridicule from Wilson and had his captaincy stripped – Marleau’s commitment to the organization hasn’t been quite as steadfast. Recall in 2015, of course, when Marleau’s preference for a brief stretch was to leave the Sharks. We reported here in November, 2015 that he was willing to accept a trade to three teams, while ESPN reported that Marleau’s agent was “quietly exploring the market” as late as January, 2016.

While those feelings seem to have passed over time, Marleau hasn’t been as emphatic as Thornton in his desire to return. When asked on April 24 if he would like to come back to the Sharks, Marleau said: “Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option. A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

At this point, though, Marleau may be asking for a bit much in his next deal. It’s believed that the franchise’s all-time leading scorer is, like Thornton, seeking a contract of at least three years.

That shouldn’t be overly surprising. When asked then if he wanted a multi-year deal on April 24, Marleau said: “Yeah, I think so. … I still feel like I have at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

As we wrote here in early February, it may not make much sense for the Sharks to commit to Marleau for more than one year for a number of reasons, including potential long-term (and surely expensive) contract extensions for Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, something Wilson has made his top priority this offseason. 

If Marleau is seeking a lengthy commitment from San Jose, I don’t see how that works from a business perspective for San Jose, which has a number of prospects in the system at wing that could potentially fill the hole Marleau would leave. Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, in particular, could be ready to take the next step, and both would be much cheaper options (Meier has two years left on his entry level deal, while Sorensen is a pending restricted free agent that won’t require a huge raise).

* * *

Further complicating matters is that Thornton has never been shy about wanting to win with Marleau by his side. The two famously announced their nearly identical three-year contract extensions on Jan. 24, 2014, and Thornton would still prefer to have Marleau return to San Jose with him.

“Hopefully, I can come back and Patty can come back,” Thornton said after the season ended. “I think this team is a very good team. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team. I really believe that."

Considering the salary cap for next season has not yet been revealed, and that Wilson can’t officially extend Jones or Vlasic until July 1, the general manager could be forced to wait a little while before finalizing anything with either Thornton or Marleau. That makes it all the more likely that the Thornton and Marleau camps will at least get an opportunity to hear from other clubs and consider other offers in late June.

In short, anything is still possible. And Wilson, Thornton and Marleau all have some difficult decisions on the horizon in a Sharks offseason that is unlike any other.