There's been some speculation this week, from respected sources, that the Sharks' stated plan of entering a full rebuild is in part a smokescreen to push captain Joe Thornton out of San Jose. The always-knowledgeable Elliotte Friedman appeared on a Vancouver radio show Thursday night and flat-out stated "I think they're trying to get Joe Thornton to go" in response to a question about what exactly is going on with the Bay Area's hockey team. It's a statement backed up by many of general manager Doug Wilson's comments since his team's elimination.
"I don't want to put a name on you, but [if] you're a guy that hasn't won, had a long career, you want to go win. You might say 'this doesn't fit for me'" Wilson said during a conference call with the media earlier in the week in which he called the Sharks a "tomorrow team." It isn't difficult to read between the lines to infer that he's talking about Thornton there.
The problem for Wilson, of course, is that Thornton has a full no-movement clause he can use to block any potential trade. If the theory that the Sharks are publicly engaging in this rebuild talk to make Thornton feel uncomfortable enough about the team's future to consider waiving is true, the plan doesn't seem to be working. Thornton's brother and agent John Thornton told TVA Sports (h/t to Ian McLaren of The Score) "San Jose is the only team on his list" with regards to the probability of Joe accepting a trade. As you'll recall, John previously told David Pollak of the Mercury News that his client would only consider waiving his NMC if Sharks fans turned on him. Thornton is clearly in the driver's seat here and the car isn't heading to St. Louis or Chicago or New York or Anaheim anytime soon.
It's going to be interesting to see what happens next. So far, although it's admittedly very early in the offseason, none of the organization's actions have squared all that well with Wilson's talk of rebuilding. Wilson has said the team doesn't want to block its young players but then signed Mike Brown, who pretty clearly reduces the chances of someone like Freddie Hamilton making the opening-night roster, to a two-year contract. He has talked about wanting to develop prospects so they can seize as large a role as possible on the big club but re-upped Roy Sommer, whose track record of player development is spotty at best, as head coach of AHL Worcester. If he can't trade Thornton or Patrick Marleau, regardless of who wears the "C" or plays on the third defense pairing, there's no rational way of spinning this coming season as the rebuilding year Wilson is selling it as.
At any rate, the most fascinating (and, potentially, disastrous) offseason in Sharks history continues.