Sharks owners likely want a season


Sharks owners likely want a season

Due to NHL commissioner Gary Bettmans threat of a 1 million fine to any team that speaks publicly about the ongoing lockout, no one outside of the Sharks front offices or NHL Headquarters in New York knows exactly how the San Jose ownership group feels about the labor battle.

Publicly, and to no ones surprise, the NHL is presenting a unified front, although the notion that all 30 owners are fine with shutting down the league is absurd (as is the NHLPAs insistence that every one of the 700-plus players dont mind missing paychecks that will never be recovered).

Its been well documented that only eight NHL owners need to be in agreement with Bettman in order to deny any CBA proposal, although really, its seven, as the broke Phoenix Coyotes are run by the league. Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle voiced his frustration about that structure in early October, when his comments here were circulated coast-to-coast in various national and Canadian hockey publications and websites.

RELATED: Boyle bothered by NHL owners' tactics

CBCs Elliotte Friedman on Wednesday made his best educated guess as to the clubs that are considered the hard-liners, and are therefore holding up the bargaining process while they insist on getting as many givebacks (and money) from the players. In his estimation, they are: Boston, Anaheim, Columbus, Florida, the New York Islanders, Phoenix, St. Louis, Washington and Dallas.

Friedman went on to speculate that teams such as Tampa Bay and Nashville want a better collective bargaining agreement, but recognize not playing is worse.

Which, I would hypothesize, is exactly how the Sharks ownership group is viewing this thing.

As Ive said in the past, the Sharks are a team that should be making money or at least, losing much less. They are clearly run extremely well, selling out 110 consecutive regular season games. There are numerous team-sponsored community events for fans and season ticket holders throughout the year. They play in one of the loudest buildings in the league, and the atmosphere is electrifying. Fans dont have to sit through sales pitches for cheap merchandise at every stoppage of play, and there are no fat guys gyrating to Eye of the Tiger in the stands just to get an artificial rise from the capacity crowd (okay, so maybe thats a personal preference).

Most importantly, they have iced one of the most competitive teams in the league in the last decade, featuring eight straight playoff appearances and a hat trick of Final Fours.

The result? A self-proclaimed 15 million loss last season, and, according to one source, more than 60 million down the drain over the previous four years combined.

The Sharks deserve a friendlier collective bargaining agreement, centered around a lower salary cap. The lockout has become a necessary evil to achieve that, as the players association has not shown much of a willingness to face the financial reality of a middle-of-the-road club like San Jose.

Shortly after the 2011-12 season ended, Sharks ownership, represented by Kevin Compton and Stratton Sclavos, sat down for a Q-and-A with the local media. Weve referenced that discussion here a number of times in (including July 16), but it bears repeating that, according to them, revenues have not kept up with expenses, and Sclavos even admitted that seeing the salary cap rise as it has to 63.4 million last year has been frustrating.

Whats probably just as exasperating is that the Sharks arent one of the teams to blame for where the league is now in terms of player costs. Sure, theyve signed some cornerstone guys like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to big deals, but none of those were blatantly awful at the time they were inked. The Sharks have avoided the monster, long-term contracts that some clubs hand out like fun-size Snickers bars on Halloween night.

In the leagues most recent CBA proposal, it was revealed that if a player retired before fulfilling his contract, the team that signed him to that contract would be on the hook for the deal in terms of salary cap space. For example, if the Kings Mike Richards decided to hang up his skates this summer, the Flyers would be burdened with a 5.75 million cap hit through 2020 when Richards contract expires, since they were the ones that originally signed him. Ouch.

Privately, the Sharks ownership group and front office likely snickered in approval at such a clause, as it could potentially punish teams like Philadelphia for handing out such contracts that have driven up overall costs for everyone else.

But, getting back to the point its hard to imagine that the Sharks owners would be among those pushing for a my way or the highway approach that has so far been utilized by Bettman and his hard-liners. San Jose is coming off of its worst regular season since 2002-03, and an aging core is only getting older. Other local teams like the Giants, As and 49ers are all at or near the top of their respective leagues, and all are competing for the Bay Area citizenrys discretionary income which just got more expensive for Sharks fans, after a summer ticket price increase.

A lost season, on the heels of the previous lockout of 2004-05, could be disastrous for a number of teams, including the Sharks. Sure, the rabid fan base that packs HP Pavilion would likely remain, but there is much more to generating income than ticket sales alone. Its the casual fan the one attends three or four games a year, watches maybe a dozen more, buys the odd hat or t-shirt, and tunes in for the playoffs, that could look for other alternatives for their attention and their hard-earned cash.

The players association, at the moment, looks like its playing the dangerous game of counting on internal strife to develop among the owners. Whether or not that occurs could determine if theres hockey, or if another season gets flushed away.

And if its the latter that happens, every last owner and player will bear some of the responsibility.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”