Joe Thornton

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Keven Shattenkirk #8 and Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche during the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the RBC Center on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Trade rumblings: Isles interested in Duchene, Caps ponder Shattenkirk

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As has become a custom, NHL teams are being proactive and making big moves before the actual day of the trade deadline. So, what’s bubbling below the surface even with Ben Bishop and Martin Hanzal off the market?

Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

TSN’s Insider Trading segment from Monday night provides a bounty of interesting things to consider, even if it’s important to note that these rumblings don’t argue that anything is imminent. The full video is absolutely worth your time, in part because some bits aren’t covered here.

An especially interesting potential destination for Matt Duchene

OK, so the most important part to note is that Bob McKenzie reports that the Colorado Avalanche remain firm on what they want for Matt Duchene: three or four “high-end” pieces, preferably an NHL-ready defenseman. McKenzie reasonably notes that such a deal might be more feasible during the off-season instead of this week.

The segment does bring in a fascinating possibility, remote or not: what if the New York Islanders go in on Duchene, with Travis Hamonic maybe helping to make a deal possible?

It might be a long shot – the Islanders are labeled a “dark horse” for Duchene, a market that’s already seemingly shaky since Colorado wants a lot for the speedy forward – but it’s fun to imagine an Islanders center duo of Duchene and John Tavares.

Tavares was the first pick in 2009 while Duchene went third to Colorado, so this move would be a bit like the Sharks trading for Joe Thornton, who was drafted right before Patrick Marleau in 1997.

Anyway, that would be fun on the outside chance it could happen.

The battle for Shattenkirk

Some people might be tired of hearing about St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, especially since he’s allegedly nixed some deals. Still, there are plenty of interesting teams connected to the high-scoring blueliner.

TSN’s Darren Dreger notes the Washington Capitals interest in Insider Trading … though it’s possible that Washington is just as interested in driving up the price for other contenders as they might be in acquiring him. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman makes the Blues – Capitals connection, too.

The Blues understandably want to drive the price up one way or another.

Puck Daddy acknowledges the possibility of the New York Rangers landing yet another blockbuster in Shattenkirk. Former GM Brian Lawton wonders if the Capitals are in a bidding war with the Pittsburgh Penguins for Shattenkirk.

There … are just a lot of things flying around.

Assorted bits

Overall, there’s a lot to take in. Enjoy pondering all the possibilities.

Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 11:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by teammate Joe Thornton #19 after he scored in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 11, 2017 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Two of San Jose’s most important and longest-tenured players, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are set to become unrestricted free agents this summer.

Given the Sharks are in the midst of their Stanley Cup window — with Thornton and Marleau playing significant roles — it seems odd neither has put pen to paper on an extension yet.

But the Mercury News has a theory on why:

Here’s where it gets interesting. Next season, the NHL is adding a new team, the Vegas Golden Knights. That franchise will participate in an expansion draft. It will happen in June, a few days before the annual entry draft.  Each existing NHL team can protect either seven or eight forwards from being selected by the Golden Knights. However, pending unrestricted free agents will not be eligible for the expansion draft.

In other words, it behooves Wilson and the Sharks not to sign Marleau and Thornton until after the expansion draft. That way, the two players would not count toward the seven or eight forwards on the Sharks’ protected list (the exact number depends on choices the Sharks make at other positions.)

San Jose’s in a fairly unique position for the expansion draft. It is one of four teams not required to protect anybody — Calgary, St. Louis and Washington are the others — and, with the addition of the aforementioned Thornton-Marleau scenario, GM Doug Wilson would have serious flexibility when it comes to exposing players.

Not that he’s willing to divulge any information.

“My position is that I have no comment on that,” Wilson told the Mercury News. “People can anticipate and speculate about what our approach might be.”

ESPN touched on this potential scenario last month, noting that Wilson has some big decisions to make regardless if he chooses the seven forwards-three-defensemen-one goalie protected list, or the eight-skaters-and-a-goalie setup:

If you go 7-3-1, it means you protect just three defensemen — Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and probably Justin Braun — which then leaves Paul Martin, Brenden Dillon, Mirco Mueller and David Schlemko among those exposed.

What if the Sharks decide to go the 8-1 protection format route in order to protect four defensemen? That means only four forwards could be protected: Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and then take your pick from either Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward, Melker Karlsson or Chris Tierney. (Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are exempt.)

The risk in letting Thornton and Marleau get to free agency, of course, is that someone makes an offer neither can refuse. But it could be a risk worth taking. It’s fair to assume any potential offer would have to be massive in scope, given Thorton’s and Marleau’s ties to the Bay Area — the latter has spent his entire 20-year career with the Sharks, while the former has been there for over a decade.

Right now, there’s not much information about what type of extensions San Jose is offering. ESPN reported Thornton is eyeing another three-year deal — his last was a three-year, $20.25 million contract — and things are almost entirely silent on the Marleau front.

WATCH LIVE: Florida Panthers at San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 05:  Shawn Thornton #22 of the Florida Panthers fights with Micheal Haley #38 of the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on November 5, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Both the San Jose Sharks and Florida Panthers have some work to do, even if the Sharks top their division while the Panthers are on the outside of the East playoffs.

Need proof? Merely look at their records in the last 10 games:

Sharks: 5-2-3
Panthers: 5-3-2

Not awful by any means, but there are certainly signs for improvement.

For your viewing pleasure, consider that both teams boast young talent (Logan Couture, Jonathan Huberdeau) to go with some of the league’s most beloved elder statesmen in Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Video: For the first time this season, Joe Thornton (finally) scores against an NHL goalie

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It was only a matter of time, right?

Joe Thornton entered Thursday’s game with three goals this season. All three of those goals had been into the empty net, but he decided to change things up versus the Bruins.

Thornton beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with a wrist shot from the faceoff dot in the first period. It only took him 55 games into the season to finally beat an NHL goalie.

 

Pre-Game Reading: Why Zdeno Chara belongs on the NHL’s Top 100

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— Up top, the performance by Courtney Daniels, a member of the Los Angeles Kings Ice Crew, after she had to fill in for Fifth Harmony at the 2017 NHL All-Star game to sing the National Anthem with almost no advance notice.

— There were a lot of thoughts about the NHL’s Top-100 players list, not only because of the players that earned a spot, but because of the players that did not get a spot. Evgeni Malkin and Joe Thornton being two very prominent examples when it comes to the latter. Another active player that did not make the cut that probably has a pretty good argument for being included: Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, one of the most complete and dominant defenders of his era. [WEEI]

— TSN’s Bob McKenzie has his mid-season rankings for the 2017 NHL draft prospects, and to the surprise of no one Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings is the No. 1 player on that list, followed by Nico Hischier and Timothy Liljegren. [TSN]

— The Pittsburgh Penguins might be getting Kris Letang back in the lineup on Tuesday night against the Nashville Predators, but are still likely to be without Evgeni Malkin. In his place, Carter Rowney might get an opportunity to make his NHL debut. He talked about that on Tuesday. “I had a lot of excitement when I got that first phone call and went to Boston. So to go back down, I played a couple games and then to get another call and being so close right now, there’s a lot of excitement right now, a lot of excitement with my family coming into town and everything. So right now, I just want to take it very slowly and soak it all in and enjoy the night.” [Pittsburgh Penguins]

— Winnipeg Jets rookie Patrik Laine is scoring on more than 18 percent of his shots this season, which is a pretty incredible number for any player. Is it something that he can maintain as his career progresses? [TSN]

John Tavares is eligible for unrestricted free agency after next season and spoke over the All-Star weekend about how he is open to signing a new contract with the team this summer when he is eligible to sign one. Does he deserve better than what the Islanders have given him during his career? [The Hockey News]

Enjoy the games!