Sharks-Flyers: What to watch for

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Sharks-Flyers: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING ALERT: Sharks Pregame Live airs on Comcast SportsNet California at 7 p.m. and takes you up to puck drop. Stick around after the game for Sharks Postgame Live with highlights and analysis from Scott Reiss, Bret Hedican and Ray Ratto.

SAN JOSE The Sharks will get to see their new acquisitions in action for the first time tonight when they host the Philadelphia Flyers, as Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi are in San Jose and ready to suit up in teal for the first time since yesterdays trade.

One of their biggest pieces, however, may be out. Logan Couture left Sundays game with a lower body injury after taking numerous hard checks against the Wild, including a jarring blow from Greg Zanon early in the third period that knocked him from the game.

Couture skated for a bit without pads on Tuesday, before the rest of the team hit the ice for the morning skate. The team leader with 27 goals, hes questionable against the Flyers with a lower body injury believed to be a knee.

Theres a chance I can play tonight, Couture said. It definitely feels a lot better than it did the day of the game.

Back to Winnik and Galiardi. The two close friends are obviously excited to get their Sharks debut underway, and were asked what fans can expect from them tonight at HP Pavilion.

Just try to be a spark, Galiardi said. Have some good energy, and use my skating to my advantage and help the guys Im playing with by getting in on the forecheck, and help out offensively too, when I can.

Winnik said: Always when you get traded, you bring new excitement with yourself, and hopefully TJ and I inject some energy into the lineup.

Forget about the road: Now that the road trip from hell has come to an end, which included a delayed return to the Bay Area after mechanical problems with the plane kept them in St. Paul for an extra night, the Sharks (32-22-7, 71 points) will have to quickly move on.

The recent trade deadline and a four-game homestand offers the chance to right the proverbial ship after seven losses in their last nine games (2-6-1).

The guys that are in the room are the guys were going with. Its a great opportunity for us to get things turned around here, and start playing better hockey, Patrick Marleau said.

Todd McLellan wont coach for the Sharks tonight, still suffering from a concussion he received on Sunday, so it will be assistants Jay Woodcroft and Matt Shaw manning the duties for San Jose.

Woodcroft met with the media after the morning skate, and addressed the teams mindset after the poor road trip.

Its part of adversity. As teams go out throughout a season and you always talk adversity, well, were in it right now, Woodcroft said. These are the times that bring teams together.

Embattled goaltenders meet: Antti Niemis recent struggles are concerning, but thats nothing compared to how miserable its been in net for their opponent tonight, the Philadelphia Flyers (34-20-7, 75 points).

The Flyers lead the NHL in goals, but like the Sharks lately, have had trouble keeping it out of their own net. Ilya Bryzgalov, their prized offeseason acquisition, has a 2.82 goals-against average and .898 save percentage (and is making no less than 10 million this season).

Bryzgalov will start tonight against Niemi, who is 1-3-1 in his last five starts and has not lasted the first period in two of his last three.

The Sharks team defense has been just as bad as Niemi, allowing 35 goals in the nine games on the road, or nearly four per game.

RELATED: Defense at heart of Sharks' problems

Its just attention to detail. Weve proven it throughout the season that we can do it, said Marleau of the team defending better. Weve got to have everybody on the same page and taking pride in it. That will make a huge difference.

A look at the lines: With Couture questionable and Dominic Moore (lower body) still out, the Sharks had some very different looks to their lines during the morning skate.

Ryane Clowe and Tommy Wingels flanked Joe Thornton, while Marleau centered Winnik and Joe Pavelski. Michal Handzus, scratched on Sunday, was between Galiardi and Torrey Mitchell while the fourth line remained Andrew Desjardins, Brad Winchester and Jim Vandermeer.

Defenseman Douglas Murray is also still out with a fractured Adams apple.

Odds and ends: This is the only meeting of the season between these two teams. The Flyers are concluding a four-game West Coast swing. San Jose has won eight straight games against the Flyers, dating back to Feb. 16, 2004.

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.