Thornton hoping to avoid another lockout

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Thornton hoping to avoid another lockout

SAN JOSE -- For Joe Thornton and a select few San Jose Sharks that are in already back in town, its business as usual at the teams practice facility.

On Thursday at Sharks Ice, Thornton, who spent the majority of his summer in Switzerland and Canada, and new teammate Brad Stuart were the only two players to lace them up in preparation for the upcoming 2012-13 season. The time was generally spent stretching and skating laps, as the pair of veterans work at getting back into playing shape after four months off. Patrick Marleau, Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss were also in the building, but didnt skate on this day, instead opting for an off-ice workout.

Unfortunately, though, Thornton and the rest of the NHL constituency have to pay as much attention to whats happening off the ice and as what they need to do to on it. The latest round of collective bargaining talks on Thursday in Toronto only provided more pessimism that the season will actually start on time, with commissioner Gary Bettman telling reporters that the two sides remain far apart on key economic issues.

The Sharks are scheduled to open the regular season on Oct. 12 in Anaheim, while training camp starts in less than a month on September 21. The likelihood of those two events actually happening on time seems like a long shot, at best.

The current CBA expires on September 15. A second lockout in the last eight years of business is on the horizon.

And thats not very appealing to the Sharks captain.

After living it the one year and not playing in the NHL, you definitely dont want to do it again. I love to play, its my joy to play hockey. Thats what I love to do, said Thornton.

Last time when they told us we couldnt, it was heartbreaking. But, we still have got a couple weeks left of negotiations. Hopefully, they can figure things out and let us play. It would be a shame if we didnt.

There arent many players still in the league that sacrificed more than the Sharks captain in 2004-05. Thornton had just completed the first year of a three-year, 20 million contract with Boston, meaning he failed to collect almost 7 million in the last lockout. He turned 25 in the summer of 2004, and was just entering the prime of his career. Thornton finished third in the league in scoring in 2002-03 with 101 points, and had 73 points, tied for the 16th in the league, in 2003-04.

RELATED: Joe Thornton career stats 2011-2012 game logs

Its probably safe to assume that certain NHL owners are pinning at least a portion of their hard-line strategy in CBA negotiations on the hope that players like Thornton, and other veterans like Patrick Marleau, Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle, Marty Brodeur and Daniel Alfredsson to provide some pressure on the rest of the union to make sure the season starts as soon as possible. Another lengthy lockout, along with more lost wages that will never be recovered, wont sit well with players that have already sacrificed so much.

Thornton wasnt willing to go there, not surprisingly, but did articulate that every single player in the union has the opportunity to express his views.

Theres 800 guys in this union, and everybody gets a voice, said Thornton, whos keeping abreast of union matters via text messages, conference calls and the NHLPA website. Everybody understands what happened in 2004. I dont know how many guys or percentage of the union was a part of that, but it was nasty.

There are a lot of relatively new players that havent gone through this and this is the first go round. Theyve got to be informed, and make sure they go to the player meetings and make sure they are in the conference calls to see whats going on, and understand whats going on. Im sure they want to play, and as hockey players, we all want to play.

There was a report last week out of Switzerland that Thornton would return to HC Davos, where he played in 2004-05 and maintains a residence close by, in the event of another long lockout. Thorntons older brother and agent John Thornton shot that down, though, and Joe himself said hes not concerned with relocating just yet, even though its assuredly crossed his mind.

Until they tell me I cant play here, Im not really thinking about anything, he said. Im back here, and planning on starting camp on the 21st. Until they tell me otherwise, Im planning on stepping on the ice and trying to win a Stanley Cup here in San Jose.

My thought process is, were going to start training camp when its supposed to start. Whatever happens after that happens after that, but my focus is playing from the start of this year.

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

CHICAGO – If there were a best-case scenario for the Sharks regarding the expansion draft, it probably would have been the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Mikkel Boedker, and the three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

Instead, the Golden Knights swiped David Schlemko. While the 30-year-old was a nice third pair defenseman in his only year with the Sharks, it was probably the second-best case from San Jose’s perspective. The team should be able to fill the vacancy internally without too much difficulty. Schlemko had two goals and 18 points in 62 games last season, and has three years left on his contract at $2.1 million annually.

“I think it’s worked out well for all parties involved,” said general manager Doug Wilson. “You go into expansion, you know you’re going to lose a player. David came in and played well for us. We signed him as a free agent, so we didn’t have to give up an asset to get him. So, we think we moved through the expansion phase with the good young players coming in that are ready to play and compete for that spot. That’s probably as good as we could have expected to come out of expansion, in that position.”

If there are no other major moves on the Sharks’ blue line this offseason, the spot to play alongside Brenden Dillon will be there for the taking in training camp. There’s no reason, of course, to break up the top four of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun, and Brent Burns-Paul Martin.

Dylan DeMelo would figure to have the inside track on the job, but there are others like Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, each of whom signed two-year contract extensions on June 17. They served as the AHL Barracuda’s top defense pair for most of the season.

The 24-year-old Ryan, a sixth round pick in 2012, posted 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games last season in the AHL. He was recalled once by the Sharks but did not play. Heed, 26, is an offensive defenseman that tallied 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda and played in one game with the Sharks on Jan. 11 in Calgary. Ryan is a left-handed shot; Heed, like Schlemko and DeMelo, shoots right.

Regarding Ryan, Wilson said: “He’s right on track. He’s the type of guy that – if you look around the league at the number of young defensemen that are making an impact – he thinks and plays the game the right way.”

“Watching [Ryan and Heed] play together, I would say they were arguably the best defense pair in the AHL last year.”

There are other defensemen to monitor, too. The Sharks signed soon-to-be 25-year-old Czech Radim Simek to a one-year contract on May 23, beating out several of other NHL teams to acquire his services. 

“He’s a puck-moving guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got a little bite to him, too. Not tall, but thick and strong. We think he’s a guy that has the skill set to step right in and play. We’ll see how much time it takes him to adjust to the smaller rink.”

And don’t forget about Jeremy Roy, either. The first pick of the second round in the deep 2015 draft (31st overall), Roy is expected to join the organization next season, likely starting his pro career with the Barracuda after recovering from a significant knee injury that ended his junior season in late October.

“He had a major repair, but he’s back healthy,” Wilson said. “We’ll see him this summer, and he’s a puck-moving guy. … Injuries you can’t control, but we have high expectations for Jeremy.”

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Vegas shipped Schlemko to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft.

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

CHICAGO – The glass-half-full observer looks at Sharks’ recent draft record and sees some late round picks that could be on the cusp of making the NHL on a full time basis. 

Defenseman Joakim Ryan (7th round, 2012), center Danny O’Regan (5th round, 2012) and forward Kevin Labanc (6th round, 2014) have all exceeded expectations so far. Dylan DeMelo (6th round, 2011) could also be included in that group.

The glass-half-empty observer, though, sees that the Sharks have traded away a pair of recent first rounders that didn’t pan out. Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall, 2014) was dealt to Vancouver in late February for Jannik Hansen and a fourth round pick, while Mirco Mueller (18th overall, 2013) is off to New Jersey for a pair of picks in this year’s draft.

It’s all part of the uncertainty of selecting what are mostly teenagers in the annual NHL Entry Draft, which takes place at Chicago’s United Center this weekend. The Sharks’ first pick during Friday night’s first round sits at 19th overall, and they have seven more selections on Saturday when rounds two-through-seven take place.

Doug Wilson is used to picking in the mid-to-late first round, as the Sharks have missed the playoffs just once under his 14-year watch.

“I think we always take the best player available,” he said. “I think it’s a good draft. … We feel pretty comfortable at 19 we’ll get a pretty good player.”

The Sharks have never selected 19th, and Wilson left open the possibility that they could move up or down.

“People move up and down all the time. We’ve got a history of doing that so teams do reach out to us,” he said.

The Sharks moved up to pick Mueller in 2013, sending a second round pick to Detroit to jump ahead two places in a deal that now looks regrettable. The next year, they moved down seven spots before selecting Goldobin.

Less than a week ago, the Sharks didn’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds. But in dealing Mueller (and a fifth rounder this year) to the Devils, they acquired second and fourth round picks from New Jersey (49 and 123 overall). They also have a pair of sixth round picks and three in the seventh round.

While this year’s draft isn’t thought to be especially strong, Wilson still expects there to be some good players available after the first round. Getting some assets in exchange for Mueller, who had been passed over in the organization, was critical.

“I think it was important for us to fill in the grid like we did. I think it’s a good draft,” Wilson said. “Realistically, it’s probably not a Connor McDavid-Auston Matthews type draft, but there are some very good players in this draft that will go on and have very good careers.”

As for losing Mueller and Goldobin recently, the general manager seemed to say that that those are the breaks when you’re a team doesn’t make one of the first few selections.

“First of all, you’ve got to clarify where we pick and have picked. You’re not talking about top five picks or lottery picks, so often – and this is not to take away from Mirco and Goldie, because they’re really good players and good kids – you move players when you’re trying to win or trying to make things happen,” he said. 

“Historically, our scouts have done an outstanding job, one of the best records for a scouting staff in the league, since 2003 in particular. But, you can’t be afraid to be bold and move things.”

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Although the Sharks have never made a pick in the 19th overall spot, they’ve been around it. Players include Tomas Hertl (17th overall, 2012), Marcel Goc (20th overall, 2001) and Marco Sturm (21st overall, 1996). 

Some notable players around the league taken 19th overall include Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay, 2012), Oscar Klefbom (Edmonton, 2011), Nick Bjugstad (Florida, 2010), Chris Kreider (Rangers, 2009), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim, 2003) and Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg, 1990).

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The Sharks will hold their annual development camp from July 3-7 at their practice facility. It includes a scrimmage at SAP Center on Thursday, July 6.