Paul Martin

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.

Hasn’t exactly been roses for San Jose’s key free agent signings

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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In the aftermath of their Stanley Cup Final loss to Pittsburgh, the Sharks knew where they needed upgrades — on defense, and in the speed department.

So in free agency, GM Doug Wilson went to work.

His splashiest move was signing Danish winger Mikkel Boedker to a four-year, $16 million deal. On paper, it was an ideal fit. Boedker was coming off a solid 17-goal, 51-point campaign split between Arizona and Colorado, played under head coach Peter DeBoer in junior and was lauded by Wilson, who praised Boedker’s “tremendous speed.”

Next, Wilson signed former Devils blueliner David Schlemko, who was coming off career highs in virtually every statistical category. This, too, looked like a great fit — San Jose needed a more mobile, skilled and offensive defenseman to replace the outgoing Roman Polak — and, like he did with Boedker, Wilson sung Schlemko’s praises.

“David is a solid puck-moving defenseman with good speed who can play the game at both ends,” Wilson said, shortly after giving Schlemko a four-year deal of his own. “He is coming off of a very productive season in New Jersey and we think he will fit well with our group.”

That was then.

Today, some of the luster has worn off both signings. Boedker has been a huge disappointment, with just two goals through 33 games, and was benched earlier this month in a game against Anaheim.

“I would hope he was pissed off,” DeBoer said in explaining the move. “It’s always a last resort as a coach.”

The Schlemko situation is a little more puzzling. He was made a healthy scratch earlier this week, for reasons that remain unknown. Classified simply as a “coach’s decision,” Schlemko’s stint in the press box came after he appeared in 28 of 32 games, while averaging over 17 minutes per night.

He’s been a decent contributor offensively — sitting third behind Brent Burns and Paul Martin in d-man scoring, with eight points — and has solid possession metrics. In speaking with the Mercury News, he seemed just as befuddled about the scratch as everybody else.

“Just trying to turn the page — it’s out of my hands — and move on from there,” he explained. “I’m confident in what I can do and what I can bring. But at the end of the day, it’s a coach’s decision.”

Despite all this, the Sharks have still enjoyed a pretty good start to the year. They head into tonight’s action first in the Pacific Division, with a 20-12-1 record, and have won eight of their last 11.

Part of that is because the club has embraced youth in a major way, and the youth has responded in kind. Kevin Labanc, the 21-year-old AHL sniper, was recalled in early November and has become a lineup fixture. Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick in ’15, is up with the big club as well. And in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Calgary, 23-year-old d-man Dylan DeMelo — who drew into the lineup over Schlemko — played a season-high 20:02.

As such, Schlemko and Boedker will be worth watching as the season continues to unfold.

Schlemko set to join Ward as healthy scratch for Sharks

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 19:  David Schlemko #5 of the San Jose Sharks skates with the puck during the third period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on November 19, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Four days ago, Joel Ward was a surprising healthy scratch when the Sharks took on the Habs in Montreal.

Today? It’s Ward again, this time joined by veteran defenseman David Schlemko.

The pair will be in the press box when San Jose hosts Calgary, per the Mercury News. For Ward, the decision comes after he drew back in for Sunday’s loss to Chicago, in which he finished minus-1 in 13:38 of ice time.

“I thought he did a good job. I saw some good things,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of Ward. “Definitely a step in the right direction.”

The 36-year-old winger has woefully under performed this year, with just two goals through 31 games. That has him on pace for just five this season, well off his pace of ’15-16, when he scored 21 times (his first year in San Jose, after signing in free agency).

As for Schlemko, he’s appeared in 28 of 32 games this year, while averaging over 17 minutes per night.

He’s been a decent contributor offensively — sitting third behind Brent Burns and Paul Martin in d-man scoring, with eight points — and was one of GM Doug Wilson’s biggest moves this past summer, agreeing to a four-year deal worth $8.4 million.

With Ward and Schlemko out, it looks like Micheal Haley and Dylan DeMelo will draw in.

Sharks recall Mueller, who’s been ‘excellent’ in the AHL

Mirco Mueller, Joe Vitale
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It’s getting to the point where Mirco Mueller is either going to make it with the San Jose Sharks, or he isn’t.

Mueller, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 draft, turned 21 in March. While that’s still young for a defenseman, it’s about the age where the Sharks should expect their first-round investment to start paying off.

And with injuries to David Schlemko and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mueller may get a chance to show his stuff during a four-game road trip that starts Tuesday in Toronto. He was recalled today from the AHL’s Barracuda.

“All the reports out of the American League team were that that he’s been excellent,” said Sharks coach Pete DeBoer, per CSN Bay Area. “I think he’s really taken a step maturity-wise as a player and as a kid this year. Everybody’s saying that he looks like he’s ready for full-time NHL duty. … He’s a guy that belongs up here.”

Mueller has no goals and seven assists in 18 AHL games this season. He has 50 games of NHL experience, 39 of them in 2014-15 when he was perhaps rushed into the league as a teenager.

A left shot, there is opportunity for the native of Switzerland to advance in the Sharks’ organization. Paul Martin is 35 and may require fewer and easier minutes going forward. Vlasic, 29, only has two years left on his contract and will be expensive to re-sign. Brenden Dillon currently plays the left side on the third pairing and could theoretically be beaten out for a lineup spot.

But it remains to be seen if Mueller will make his season debut on this trip.

From CSN Bay Area’s story:

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told reporters on Sunday that Vlasic had improved since Saturday but was still “day-to-day.” Last season, the Sharks were 7-7-1 without their defensive stalwart in the lineup.

Schlemko said on Thursday that he had hoped to play in one of the two Sharks games over the weekend, but that didn’t happen.

Mueller has taken warmups in each of the last two Sharks games, but has yet to make his season debut.

The Sharks (16-11-1) will also make stops in Ottawa, Montreal, and Chicago before returning home.

Condon keeps standing on his head for Sens, this time sinking Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators makes a save on a shot taken by Mikkel Boedker #89 of the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on December 7, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Chris Kelly scored with 1:06 remaining and Jean-Gabriel Pageau added an empty-net goal, giving the Ottawa Senators a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.

Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson also scored for the Senators, who beat the Sharks for a fifth straight time. They’ve won three straight in San Jose for the first time ever.

Logan Couture and Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Mike Condon stopped 35 of 37 shots for the Sens. The Sharks outshot Ottawa 18-4 in the third period, and Martin Jones allowed three goals on 16 shots overall.

The Senators struck quickly, recording a power-play goal less than four minutes into the contest. Mike Hoffman tossed the puck toward the net and it bounced off Burns’ skate. Burns lost sight of it and Stone picked it up, firing past everybody into the net.

Hoffman has a point in six straight games and in eight of nine since missing a pair of contests with an injury.

Karlsson made it 2-0 with a goal about four minutes later. Sharks defender Brendan Dillon tried clearing it from in front of the net, but Karlsson was right there to fire it to the high glove side.

Couture got the Sharks on the board with a power-play goal midway through the second period. The Senators cleared the puck two straight possessions before Joe Pavelski rushed to the net and then slipped the puck to an open Couture, who has six goals in his past eight games, about 10 feet away for the score.

Burns tied the score 6:30 into the third period, methodically working the puck to set up a shot that squeezed past Condon to the glove side.

NOTES: Senators D Marc Methot missed his fourth straight contest with a lower body injury. … Stone has eight points in his last six games. … Karlsson has nine points in his last five games. … The Sharks recalled F Kevin LeBlanc and D Mirco Mueller. Mueller was a healthy scratch. … Sharks D Paul Martin recorded his 300th NHL point with an assist on Burns’ goal.

UP NEXT:

Senators: Continue a four-game trip at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Travel to Anaheim for a game Friday night and then return home to face Carolina on Saturday night.