Sure, they're each 34 years old and their best seasons might be behind them, but no two forwards have been more valuable to the Sharks this season than captain Joe Thornton and franchise leading scorer Patrick Marleau. They'll now have a chance to continue powering the San Jose offense, building on their legacy as the two best players in team history and chasing the franchise's first Stanley Cup as the would-be unrestricted free agents were signed today to 3-year contract extensions:
Marleau's 3-year deal is worth $6.66 M a year AAV; Thornton's deal is $6.75 M a year AAV.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 24, 2014
Despite the rising salary cap, both players took a slight paycut as Marleau's previous contract carried a $6.9 million cap hit while Thornton's was worth an average of $7 million a year. The contracts leave the Sharks with a little under $12 million to fill five roster spots for next season, although that number increases dramatically should the team opt to use a compliance buyout on Marty Havlat and/or other non-essential players like Brad Stuart and Adam Burish.
One of those roster spots could go to Dan Boyle, now the only remaining member of the Sharks' elder core set to hit the free agent market on July 1st. His advanced age, concussion issues this season and all-around lackluster play could mean these are his final months in teal, or at least that the decision to re-sign him could come down to the wire much like it did prior to Marleau's previous contract.
Regardless, the important thing here is the Sharks no longer have to worry about Thornton and Marleau cashing in on monster seasons with another club. Despite Thornton currently leading the league in assists and Marleau being on pace for his best point total since 2009-10 and having been named to Team Canada, Doug Wilson was able to keep both the term and cap hit on these contracts entirely reasonable. Compare these deals to the dual 4-year, $28 million extensions signed by the Sedins with Vancouver late last year, players with less defensive value than Thornton and Marleau and who appear to be declining at a higher rate. Finally, let's turn to Thornton and Marleau for their reactions to spending at least three more years in San Jose: