The NHL’s free agency negotiating window began yesterday, and a pair of Sharks legends set to become unrestricted free agents were reportedly quite popular. Forwards Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton attracted interest around the league, according to The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta.
Several calls have come into Marleau's camp today. He's certainly a popular guy leading up to July 1.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 25, 2017
Lots of calls coming into Joe Thornton's camp, too. He wants a 3-year deal; will review each option/scenario accordingly.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 25, 2017
Joe Thornton has received interest from all sorts of teams, from Cup contenders to some of the standing's bottom feeders. A lot of interest.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 26, 2017
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given their careers up to this point, as well as their performances this past season. Both showed signs of aging, but Thornton picked up 43 assists, his 14th consecutive season with 40 or more assists excluding the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. Marleau, meanwhile, scored 27 goals, 20 of which came at even strength, which tied for the fourth-most 5-on-5 goals he’s scored in a single season.
Thornton’s desired contract length is also no shock. His agent and brother John Thornton told Pierre LeBrun, in January that Thornton was seeking a three-year-deal. In May, Friend of the Blog Kevin Kurz reported that Thornton was still seeking a three-year-contract, and a source told him this month that Marleau was also looking for a contract of “at least three years.”
Pagnotta’s colleague Dennis Bernstein offered some interesting tidbits about Marleau and Thornton’s pending free agency. Thornton is apparently uninterested in taking a role as a third line center, according to Bernstein. Bernstein also speculated on which teams Thornton would be interested in if he didn’t re-sign with San Jose.
One more on Joe Thornton: if he does hit UFA status on 7/1, Habs likely on list of teams he would consider.— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 26, 2017
And I suspect they would hit his list if he gets to 7/1 unsigned. https://t.co/chojtSJFvY— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 26, 2017
With 17 players under contract for next year, the Canadiens and Rangers have a little over $21 million and just more than $20 million, respectively, in cap space entering next season, according to Cap Friendly. Each team could use additional depth at center, as Montreal is reportedly looking to move Alex Galchenyuk and New York just traded Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes. Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton was expected to “check in” on Thornton, according to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks. Thornton also played alongside Rangers winger Rick Nash during the NHL lockout in Switzerland five years ago.
But there is an additional possibility Bernstein listed for Thornton, as well as Marleau, that will likely make Sharks fans sick. The following tweets are not for the faint of heart.
Poked around and came up with this nugget. In search for increased offense, wouldn't be surprised if Kings checked in with Joe Thornton camp— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 25, 2017
Stated publicly they looking for help on wing. Had interest in Patrick Sharp at deadline. I would look at the other Patrick too (Marleau) https://t.co/18oNLXTByd— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 25, 2017
Darkest timeline aside, San Jose remains “in [the] mix” for Thornton and Marleau, according to Pagnotta. Earlier this month, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told reporters that he has had “some” dialogue with the franchise’s two longest-tenured players. Thornton’s reported preference is to remain in San Jose, while Marleau said “it would be nice” to return when asked if he’d like to return in May when the Sharks cleaned out their lockers.
If the Sharks eventually decide to move on from the two, Wilson will most likely say so. Before the expiration of defenseman Dan Boyle’s contract in 2014, Wilson told reporters that the Sharks would not bring the veteran back. Four years prior, Wilson did the same when goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was nine days away from unrestricted free agency. Following both announcements, Wilson traded away their negotiating rights before July 1. Neither Boyle nor Nabokov signed with the teams that acquired their rights. Boyle spurned the the New York Islanders for the rival Rangers, and Nabokov failed to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers before heading to the KHL for a spell.