Sharks must utilize games in hand

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Sharks must utilize games in hand

VANCOUVER Mondays 3-2 shootout win over the Canucks was the perfect way for the Sharks to begin a busy stretch.

Three weeks remain before the NHL All-Star break, and its going to be a hectic time for the Sharks, who entered Vancouver having played the fewest games in the NHL. San Jose has 12 games in the next 21 days, though, leading up to the break which begins after a tilt with the Flames in Calgary on Jan. 24.

Its a welcome change, after the Sharks played just twice in nine days in late December.

Were back in the league, so thats a great sign. We actually get to play, coach Todd McLellan joked after the game. To start it and end a two-game losing streak is important, but were going to have to take it one at a time and play against some very good teams with a tough schedule. Weve had our luxury week or two, if you want to call it that.

Weve got like five or six games in hand on some teams. We have to use those fresh legs, I guess you would call it, Ryane Clowe said on Sunday. We have three weeks here before the All Star break and this is going to be big for us. Were playing pretty much every second day or back-to-back, so this is a pretty big challenge.

At 20-11-4, the Sharks are one point behind Los Angeles for the Pacific Division lead, but have played five fewer games. They jumped ahead of Dallas, which has played two more games than San Jose, and Phoenix, which has also played five more times than the Sharks.

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In other words, San Jose is set up to take control of the division, but only if it utilizes these games that are on the horizon.

Weve got games in hand. We need these points, Clowe said.

Beating the team that has given them fits in recent years, including the first two meetings this season, was an ideal way to kick it off.

Coming close two times and not getting the results you like is tough, but they are always tough games and fun games to play in. We came out on the right side tonight," Patrick Marleau said.

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.