Sharks notes: Short season advantage, Bulls hockey etc.

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Sharks notes: Short season advantage, Bulls hockey etc.

Although NHL labor talks appear stalled once again, there is still a decent possibility the league will open its doors again in December, provided an agreement is made within the next 10 days or so (go ahead and debate the likelihood of that amongst yourselves).

NEWS: No progress made

The Sharks have eight players playing competitively overseas -- Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Antti Niemi, Jason Demers, TJ Galiardi, Douglas Murray, Tommy Wingels and Joe Pavelski; and two more, Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus, that are practicing with professional clubs. In fact, only the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins have more players (nine) in leagues in Europe.

Logic would dictate that those teams will have a competitive advantage once the season starts, since training camp isnt going to be more than a week to 10 days if things ever get going.

I asked Clowe if that could help the Sharks out of the gate in a potential shortened season.

It will help. Ive talked to a guy like Demers, and hes playing a lot and playing well over there (in Finland). Thats great for him, especially at this stage of his career. Same with a guy like Galiardi.

All around the league is going to be the same. Youre going to get guys that have been playing, guys that havent played in awhile, guys that are just practicing like I am. Youre going to get these guys at different stages. Its going to take awhile to feel guys out, but I dont feel any team really has an edge.

As expected, Clowe didnt suit up for either of the San Francisco Bulls two home games over the weekend after officially signing with the ECHL club one week ago. Instead, the 30-year-old veteran served as an assistant coach in the Bulls 4-1 win over Stockton on Friday, which ended a seven-game losing streak, and a 7-0 loss to Ontario on Saturday.

Bulls defenseman Theo Peckham, an NHL defenseman with the Edmonton Oilers, made his home debut on Friday while former Shark Devin Setoguchi potted a pair of goals for Ontario on Saturday. The match made some news across the blogosphere for reasons other than what happened on the ice, though, as the Zamboni broke down in the second intermission, requiring the players to help push it off the ice (via Puck Daddy).

Minor league hockey, baby.

While the Bulls have struggled on the ice with just a 3-8-0-2 mark, last in the 23-team league with a .308 percentage, they are drawing respectable crowds. Through their first three games, 18,818 fans have witnessed Bulls hockey in the renovated Cow Palace.

After a visit to Ontario on Wednesday, the Bulls return home for three home games in three nights, beginning on Friday.

Sharks assistant general manager Wayne Thomas has been lending his support to the Bulls during the lockout, appearing at practice a handful of times to work with goaltenders Thomas Heemskerk and Taylor Nelson. Thomas, a former goaltender himself, also works with the Sharks netminders during the season.

Thomas was present on Thursday at the Cow Palace when Clowe had his first official skate with the Bulls. Its an interesting dynamic in that during the lockout, team representatives arent allowed to have any contact with current players. That means that Thomas really isnt allowed to interact with Clowe in any capacity.

When I asked Clowe about it, he quickly stated, Wayne and I arent talking. But, I never talk to him anyway. He was, of course, joking about that last part.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has spent some time in Worcester checking out the organizations prospects in the American Hockey League. The coaching staff and team management are taking turns flying across the country to monitor and get a close-up look at the players that could soon be a part of the NHL roster.

For McLellan, it offered him a chance to reflect on his own career, which was cut short due to injury.

I was in the minors in Springfield, Mass., and I remember driving away from the rink the day my career was over basically, McLellan told NHL.com. I just went back to the Springfield arena this past September and I looked at the parking spot where I was parked. It was such a reflection time.

Dan Rosen went on to ask McLellan if he still considered the Sharks a Stanley Cup contender.

"I'd like to think we are. I believe we can be. But we're at a point where we need to look each other in the eye coming back from the lockout -- and we're going to have to decide if we are going to be a Cup contender. With the personnel and the type of game we want to play, I think we can be, but collectively we need to make that decision and make it quickly."

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

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.