Joel Ward

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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Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions

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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.

Video: Ward takes huge hit, but sets up goal

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Sharks coach Peter DeBoer wanted a lot more out of his team following a lackluster shutout loss to St. Louis. Joel Ward more than delivered.

Ward had a short-handed goal and took a hard hit to assist on Timo Meier‘s score, helping San Jose beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Monday for just its third win in eight games.

“That’s the commitment we talk about,” DeBoer said. “Taking that hit, making that play scores the goal. We need that. Joel’s a guy that brings that to the rink almost every night. That’s what it’s going to take at this time of year in order to have success.”

Brent Burns and Chris Tierney also scored and Joe Thornton had an empty-netter as the Sharks bounced back nicely from a 4-0 home loss to St. Louis on Saturday. Martin Jones made 26 saves, allowing two late goals after the game had been decided.

Josh Morrissey broke up the shutout with 2:36 to play and Mark Scheifele added a goal in the final minute after Jones tried to shoot the puck toward the empty net but hit Scheifele instead.

“That’s the first time I’ve tried, and probably the last, too,” Jones said.

Michael Hutchinson made 27 saves for the Jets, who have dropped four in a row.

The Sharks broke open a close game with two goals in the first half of the second period, starting when Mark Stuart jumped up into the play and flattened Ward on a clean hit in front of the Jets bench.

Ward’s head slammed against the ice but the Sharks took advantage of Stuart’s aggressiveness with a breakaway when Chris Tierney played the puck ahead to Meier, who beat Hutchinson for his second career goal.

“It was a hockey play. It was a good hit,” Ward said. “I tried to get the puck out obviously, and next thing I knew I was on my back and heard the horn go off. I wasn’t too sure what happened after that.”

Ward was taken off for observation to make sure he didn’t have a concussion. By the time he returned midway through the second, the Sharks had added to the lead.

Paul Potsma was penalized for closing his hand on the puck and Burns made the Jets pay when his point shot hit off the back boards and then deflected off an unsuspecting Hutchinson’s skate and into the net for Burns’ 18th goal of the season.

“The third goal was just one of those bounces you get when you’re going through a rough patch,” Hutchinson said. “It got shot through a screen and I felt it hit my skate and as soon as that happened I kind of kicked it pretty hard.”

The Jets had some good chances early but Jones robbed Shawn Matthias twice in the opening minutes of the first period and Blake Wheeler hit a post later in the first.

Winnipeg also got the first power-play chance when David Schlemko was called for a high stick, but the Sharks scored when Dustin Byfuglien couldn’t keep the puck in the offensive zone. Ward went in on a partial breakaway and beat Hutchinson with a shot from the top of the circle to make it 1-0 just 15 seconds into the man advantage.

“You can’t give up so many grade-A chances and expect them all to be saved, we have to help our goaltenders,” Scheifele said. “We’re just getting away from our game.”

Tierney took another high-sticking penalty for the Sharks, but the Jets couldn’t score on the 15-second two-man advantage or either power play.

NOTES: All three of Thornton’s goals this season have been empty-netters. … Stuart fought with Micheal Haley in the first period…. Sharks F Joonas Donskoi missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Jets: Host Arizona on Wednesday.

Sharks: Visit Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Video: Well, that was a Wild win

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The Minnesota Wild kept one point back of the Chicago Blackhawks in the race for the Central Division after a 5-4 win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

For a time in the third period, it looked like the Wild would come away with a regulation loss. The Sharks surged to a two-goal lead on goals from Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau just 32 seconds apart.

And then the comeback started.

Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu scored and the Wild, with three goals in just over five minutes, came back for the win, as the two teams combined for six goals in the final period.

For the Wild, that’s a pretty solid response from their New Year’s Eve loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which ended Minnesota’s winning streak at 12 games. They had four days to sit on that loss and it looked like they would suffer a second consecutive setback — until that timely scoring outburst.

“Our leadership and our best players were our best players,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “It’s nice to see them say ‘damn if we’re going to lose.”

Sharks healthy scratch struggling Boedker

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 07:  Mikkel Boedker #89 of the San Jose Sharks watches from the bench during the first period of the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 7, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Mikkel Boedker, San Jose’s biggest free agent signing this past offseason, will be parked in the press box tonight when the Sharks host the Wild tonight, per CSN Bay Area.

It’s the lowest point of what’s been a disappointing campaign. The Danish speedster, who inked a four-year, $16 million deal on the opening day of free agency, has just two goals and eight points through 38 games this year, and had already been subjected to an in-game benching by head coach Peter DeBoer.

Expectations were high for Boedker at the start of the year. Coming off an impressive ’15-16 campaign, in which he scored 17 goals and tied a career high with 51 points, he was expected to add a new dimension to San Jose’s forward group. He’d previously played for DeBoer in OHL Kitchener, who praised Boedker’s “world class speed” upon bringing him aboard in July.

The coach’s tune has changed since then, however.

After sitting Boedker for the entire third period against Anaheim in late November, DeBoer said Boedker was “pissed off,” adding the move was “always a last resort.”

Apparently not the last resort.

DeBoer hasn’t been afraid to go the healthy scratch route this season. He’s done the same with veterans Joel Ward and David Schlemko already, in part because San Jose’s received solid contributions from a pair of rookie forwards: Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier.

Vlasic on IR after taking slapshot to face

Tough start to the year for Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Vlasic, who took a Shayne Gostisbehere slapshot to the face in a game against Philly on Friday, has been placed on injured reserve and will miss at least the next two games, per the Mercury-News.

The incident occurred late in the third period of San Jose’s 2-0 win, when Gostisbehere’s shot rode up Joel Ward‘s stick and struck Vlasic. The veteran d-man tweeted out a picture of the damage shortly thereafter:

With Vlasic set to miss Tuesday’s game against the Kings and Thursday’s against the Wild, Mirco Mueller has been recalled from the AHL Barracuda.

It’s unclear how head coach Peter DeBoer will deploy his defense in the wake of this injury. In addition to Vlasic, David Schlemko was also absent from Monday’s practice, so the pairings were makeshift.

Whatever the case, DeBoer has a big hole to fill. Vlasic sits second on the team in TOI per game — trailing only Brent Burns — and is regarded as the club’s top shutdown defenseman.