With free agency looming, Joe Thornton continues to rehab his knee. Doug Wilson said this morning that Thornton has been at the rink every day and will definitely be ready for the start of the season, per Kevin Kurz. That should help dismiss any worries that his torn ACL and MCL will keep him from being re-signed.
Wilson isn’t rushing into any decisions, though. There’s still a lot of things that need to come together in the next week before he can make decisions regarding Thornton or Patrick Marleau.
The NHL Player’s Association is voting on the salary cap increase, which is reported to be $75 million. Marc Edouard Vlasic and Martin Jones are also pending UFAs, and likely higher priorities to re-sign. The Sharks also don't know which contract they'll lose in the expansion draft. Until he knows how much cap space he'll have to work with, it's difficult for Wilson to set anything in stone.
It sounds like Thornton and Marleau are going to be the last pieces to come together. Per Curtis Pashelka, Wilson said:
“We’ve got some high profile players and quality people. But how we feel about Joe and Patty and what they’ve done for this franchise, the standards they have set, just the quality of people and you sometimes have to make tough decisions. But make no mistake, our respect and appreciation for them will never end.
“Under a cap system, we’ll see, we’ll navigate ourselves through this. But we’ve been very fortunate to have players like this play at a high a level as they have, and how important they are to this franchise will be not forgotten. When it comes to making the hockey decisions, we have to make the decisions under this system, the cap system, that makes sense.”
Wilson’s focus right now is on the expansion draft. The Sharks’ protected list is due at 2 p.m. (PT) Saturday and Wilson has until then to deal with other GMs and finalize his list. But if you’re waiting on a big move from Wilson, it might not come. Per Kurz:
“[A deal with Vegas] is a possibility, but we’re exploring hockey trades, also. All teams have been in communication with each other. There are some teams that are positioned differently than others with the expansion draft. We feel we’re pretty comfortable.”
Each team has the option of protecting eight skaters and one goalie, or seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie in the expansion draft. Wilson hasn’t indicated which option they’re going with, only that they’re leaning toward one, but “could go either way.” He also said he’d be speaking to Vegas before the lists are due.
As UFAs, Thornton and Marleau might not be protected in the expansion draft. Vegas will have Sunday through Wednesday to sign unprotected UFAs, but those signings will count as their expansion draft selection and there’s no guarantee the players will sign with Vegas - but Vegas will likely have more cap room for a player like Thornton or Marleau.
If either of them remain unsigned by the Sharks or by Vegas, they’ll be able to speak to other teams starting on June 25th.