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It’s San Jose Sharks day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the San Jose Sharks. 

2017-18
45-27-10, 100 pts. (3rd in the Pacific Division, 6th in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Lost in six games to the Vegas Golden Knights, second round

IN
Antti Suomela

OUT
Joel Ward
Mike Hoffman
Mikkel Boedker
Jannik Hansen
Eric Fehr
Paul Martin

RE-SIGNED
Evander Kane
Joe Thornton
Logan Couture
Tomas Hertl
Chris Tierney
Dylan DeMelo

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The San Jose Sharks proved that life will go on without Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.

The two had been mainstays in the Sharks lineup for years — and a big factor in their success and cohesiveness as a team — but Marleau departed for Toronto prior to last season and Thornton spent roughly half of the season nursing injury.

And still, the show went on.

The Sharks battled to a third-place finish in the Pacific Division with 100 points, securing a date with the Anaheim Ducks in the first round where they swept their California rivals in four games.

It was in the second round where the Sharks hit a road bump, namely Marc-Andre Fleury. They simply couldn’t beat the Vegas Golden Knights goaltender, suffering the same fate as the Los Angeles Kings before them and the Winnipeg Jets after.

But given what they were able to do (mostly) without two of the pillars of the team (at least up until Marleau left), it’s both impressive and assuring for Sharks fans that the talent they’ve developed is able to carry the torch into the future.

The big news of the season came on trade deadline day when the general manager Doug Wilson trade for Evander Kane, injecting the team with a former 30-goal scorer. Kane put up nine goals and 14 points in 17 games with the Sharks after the trade — including a four-goal game — and five more points in nine playoff games, the first time he had played in the postseason.

[Under Pressure: Kane | Breakthrough: Meier | 3 Questions]

The relationship blossomed and the Sharks handed Kane a seven-year, $49 million contract in May. That’s a lot of money for a forward who is now being paid like a franchise player and has yet to record a 60-point season in the NHL.

But there’s optimism.

For one, Kane feels accepted.

“The one thing about this team, this group and this organization is they allow you to be yourself,” Kane told TSN.ca. “They embrace you for who you are and it’s a very unselfish group that makes it super-easy to come into and mesh well with.”

And Kane now has a litany of talent that the Sharks have that can feed him the puck.

Speaking of that talent, the Sharks have made just one addition this summer, signing free agent center Antti Suomela to a one-year contract after he led the Finnish Liiga in scoring with 60 points in 59 games. The Sharks have chosen to focus re-signing their core pieces that are going to propel them for years to come.

Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney, Dylan Demelo and Jumbo Joe, who is back for another season at 39 years of age, have all re-upped with the club.

Suomela will compete for a fourth line spot with prospect Dylan Gambrell.

The Sharks still have $4.3 million in cap space, so another late-summer move isn’t out of the question.

Prospect Pool

Ryan Merkley, D, 18, Guelph Storm (OHL) – 2018 first-round pick

Merkley was drafted 21st over this past June and slides right into the top prospect ranking for the Sharks. Merkley is fast. Very fast. And he gets up and down the ice and side to side as quick as anyone. Merkley excels as an offensive defenseman. He had 13 goals and 67 points in 63 games in the Ontario Hockey League this season. He was on a lot of teams’ do-not draft lists but could become one of the best defensemen to come out of the draft.

• Dylan Gambrell, C, 21, University of Denver (NCAA) – 2016 second-round pick

Gambrell has a legitimate shot to make the Sharks as their fourth-line center this season, a spot that will be up for grabs come training camp. The three-year veteran at Denver signed an entry-level contract this past spring and played three games with the Sharks. If he doesn’t make the club, he’ll play with the Barracuda. But Wilson believes Gambrell has the IQ for the NHL.

“We believe his speed, combined with his high-end hockey IQ, make him ready to be an NHL player,” Wilson said when they signed Gambrell. “We are confident that, with his skill-set, he will make an impact with our team.”

• Antti Suomela, C, 24, Jyvaskyla (Liiga) – Free agent signing

Suomela comes into the fold on a one-year, entry-level contract with the Sharks after pacing the Finnish Elite League in points this past season. He helped lead Jyvaskyla to a Champions Hockey League championship and was named to the league’s all-star team. As mentioned with Gambrell, the Sharks have a need on the fourth line and both he and Suomela will be tasked with filling it.

MORE: PHT Time Machine: 1991 dispersal draft and birth of the Sharks

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Trade: Sharks send Patrick Marleau to Penguins for draft pick

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Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford wanted to add another forward ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline, and he accomplished that by acquiring Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks.

The Penguins will send a conditional third-round pick to San Jose for the veteran forward who will get another crack at winning his first Stanley Cup.

That draft pick will become a second-round pick if the Penguins win the Stanley Cup this season.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Marleau, 40, signed with the Sharks earlier this season after a two-year stop with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto traded him over the summer to Carolina, where he was promptly bought out to make him an unrestricted free agent. It was at that point that he made his return to San Jose, the city he called home for the first 19 years of his career.

In 58 games this season he has scored 10 goals to go with 10 assists for a Sharks team that has been — by far — the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season.

Where Marleau fits in Pittsburgh will be interesting to see.

While not possessing the top-end speed he did in his prime, Marleau can still skate well enough to fit in the Penguins’ system but his days as a top producer are well behind him. But the Penguins don’t really need him to be a top-line producer. They need depth. Given the current status of their fourth-line, as well as the recent injury to Zach Aston-Reese, they had an immediate need for help in their bottom-six. They are counting on Marleau still being able to provide that. If nothing else he should be an upgrade over their current fourth-line set-up. It is just a matter of how much of an upgrade that is.

The Penguins previously acquired speedy winger Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild a couple of weeks ago.

Marleau and his new team will play the Sharks in San Jose later this week.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Live Blog

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Welcome to Pro Hockey Talk’s 2020 NHL trade deadline live blog. There’s already been a flurry of action in the past few days, but some names are still out there who could potentially be on the move before 3 p.m. ET today. Read on for new and analysis.

11:54 a.m. ET

Here’s a fun one: Wayne Simmonds is heading to the Sabres. Simmonds, who can be an UFA this summer, joins a Buffalo team sitting eight points out of a playoff spot as of Monday. Interesting strategy by Jason Botterill. Is this move a precursor to flipping Simmonds elsewhere?

11:23 a.m. ET

A very newsworthy morning for the Rangers. President John Davidson said that they have extended Chris Kreider for seven years at a $6.5M cap hit, which is good news for Rangers fans and for their 2020 playoff push. JD also brought some bad news revealing that Pavel Buchnevich and Igor Shestrkin were involved in a Sunday night car accident. Buchnevich is considered day to day, but Shesterkin suffered a small rib fracture and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Henrik Lundqvist is now back in the New York goalie picture.

11:14 a.m. ET

It’s funny what deadlines can do. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, now it appears as if the Rangers will extend Chris Kreider, which would take one of the bigger names off the board.

11:05 a.m. ET

Patrick Marleau‘s quest for a Stanley Cup will continue in Pittsburgh after the Penguins acquired the veteran in exchange for a conditional third-round pick. (Pick becomes a second if Pittsburgh wins the Cup.) This move has real “Iginla to Pens, circa 2013” vibes to it. Does Marleau’s game fit into their system of speed and chipping and winning pucks? He’s certainly added depth on the wing and Mike Sullivan is hoping he can find a role for him in their bottom six.

10:50 a.m. ET

Nate Thompson moves from the Canadiens to Philadelphia, which gives Marc Bergevin an arsenal of picks when Montreal hosts the 2021 draft in June. Bergevin has stockpiled 13 picks in the upcoming draft, six of which will come in the opening three rounds.

10:16 a.m. ET

Another move, this one between two teams chasing playoff spots in the East. Vincent Trocheck is on his way to Carolina in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark and prospects Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen. The Panthers have dropped nine of their last 13 games. This must be Dale Tallon’s idea of a wake-up call.

PHT analysis

10:00 a.m. ET

The NHL schedule features only the Senators and Blue Jackets so there will be heavy focus on whatever moves are consummated before the deadline. Some names still out there include Chris Kreider, Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, Erik Gustafsson, Jesper Fast, and Wayne Simmonds, among many others.

In Kreider’s case, there were questions as to whether he’d even be on the market. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported over the weekend that contract talks between the forward and the Rangers have stalled and he’ll likely be dealt. He’s been linked to the Bruins for a while now, but was adding Ondrej Kase their only move to bolster up front?

9:50 a.m. ET

We have our first trades of the day! Vladislav Namestnikov is headed to the Avalanche for a 2021 fourth-round pick. Joe Sakic adds depth for a team that has eyes on winning the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, Senators GM Pierre Dorion goes and sends Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the Islanders for a conditional 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional 2022 third-round pick. If the 2020 first-rounder is top three, it moves to 2021, and Ottawa will only receive the 2022 pick if the Islanders win the Cup this season.

For a team that is looking towards the future, this has been a good day so far for Dorion, who could also move Tyler Ennis before the deadline. The Senators own nine potential picks in the first three rounds of the 2002 NHL Draft and seven in the first four rounds in 2021. Those are a lot of assets to build a prospect cupboard and also use for trade bait.

PHT analysis

9:00 a.m. ET

Good morning! Welcome to Pro Hockey Talk’s 2020 NHL trade deadline live blog. There’s already been a flurry of action in the past few days, but some names are still out there who could potentially be on the move before 3 p.m. ET today.

Be sure to check out the PHT Trade Tracker today for every move made and we’ll have full coverage of all the big deals that go down today.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hurricanes send package featuring Haula to Panthers for Trocheck

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While the Hurricanes and Panthers pursue playoff spots, the two teams decided to be trade partners on Monday.

Florida sent the 26-year-old center to Carolina in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Chase Priskie, and Eetu Luostarinen

“Vincent brings elements of skill and competitiveness that fit the mold of the style we want to play,” said Hurricanes GM Don Waddell. “He’s a right-handed center who is excellent in the face-off circle. With two years left on his contract after this one, this fills a need for our roster for this year and moving forward.”

The move now gives the Hurricanes Trocheck, who has two more seasons on a contract that carries a $4.75M salary cap hit, Sebastian Aho, and Jordan Staal as their three big centers. That’s a strong threesome down the middle for a team that has eyes on doing more than just finding their way back into the postseason.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Haula, who has 12 goals and 22 points in 41 games this season, can be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s shooting 15.4% this season, higher than his average of 12.9%. Will a third team in two seasons kickstart him offensively after netting 29 goals with Vegas two years ago?

On the flip side, this is a moving by the Hurricanes where they see plenty of upside in Trocheck. They wanted to add a player with term and got one. Trocheck is shooting 7.8% this season, well-below his 10% average, which could mean the goals will come in Raleigh.

“Today we acquired players with depth, versatility, and playoff experience,” said Panthers GM Dale Tallon. “Haula and Wallmark give us more depth in the forward line and more options for our coaches as we continue our quest to make the playoffs this season.”

“It’s always a tough decision to part with one of our core young men. Vincent is a quality person and we thank him for his excellent work ethic and play and passion for the game. This deal helps us in the present and in the future as we strengthen our depth chart.”

Florida has lost nine of their last 13 games and sit two points behind the Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and four points behind the Hurricanes for the final wild card. Is this Tallon’s attempt at waking up his team?

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

David Ayres’ memorable NHL debut yet to sink in

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David Ayres’ night was over. Life around him had quieted down. There were no more media requests, his pads were packed up and he was heading home on the hour-long drive from Scotiabank Arena.

But when the emergency backup goalie who is the talk of the hockey world arrived home, he faced his toughest challenge of the weekend: falling asleep. The adrenaline was still going and the 42-year-old Ayres was still thinking about what he had accomplished.

We all the know the story by now. Ayres, the Toronto area EBUG was called into action against the Maple Leafs Saturday night when Hurricanes lost James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injury. After allowing two goals on the first two shots he faced, he settled down and made eight saves to help Carolina to a remarkable 6-3 win.

Since Saturday night Ayres has been on a media whirlwind with interviews all day Sunday before flying to New York for more.

“It hasn’t really sunk in too much,” Ayres told NBC Sports Monday morning before appearing on the TODAY show. “I haven’t really had a chance to even watch [the game]. I see clips here and there. …  I guess when I watch it it’ll sink in a little bit more. It’s been crazy the last 36 hours. This has been a lot of fun, and I’m sure it’ll sink in soon.”

Ayres, who’s been an EBUG for three years, said that when he checked his phone following the game he has 160 text messages waiting for him. One of those texts was from Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins, who coached the AHL Marlies when Ayres helped out as their practice goalie. 

“Everyone was proud, right? So that was cool,” he said.

Another unexpected message Ayres received was from Scott Foster, who played 14 minutes for the Blackhawks in another EBUG situation in March 2018. Foster stopped all seven shots he faced to preserve the victory over the Jets.

“Scott said, ‘When I was watching you, I was standing up in my living room, I was clapping, I was cheering for you,'” said Ayres, who also spoke Jorge Alves, the Hurricanes equipment manager who played seven seconds of a game in 2017. “He said he was so happy.”

The Hurricanes, known to work quick in these viral situations, announced they would start selling Ayres shirseys with proceeds benefiting a kidney foundation, something he wanted to ensure was part of the deal. Ayres had a kidney transplant in 2004 and his mom was the donor.

“If it wasn’t for my kidney transplant I wouldn’t have been able to do this right now,” said Ayres, who’s full-time job is maintenance operations manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre, which we once knew as Maple Leafs Gardens. “That was the one thing I wanted to do was to make sure there was a kidney foundation in and around Raleigh that we could do something for and hopefully reach somebody and give them step towards where they want to be after they have a transplant or a kidney disease.”

This is the start of a busy week for Ayres. After Monday’s media tour he’ll head to Raleigh where he’ll serve as the Hurricanes Siren Sounder before Tuesday’s game against the Stars. The city will also honor him by proclaiming it “David Ayres Day.” That comes on the heels of North Carolina governor Roy Cooper Tweeting he’s ready to make the netminder an honorary citizen of the state.

Oh, and the stick Ayres used is heading to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Pretty, pretty good weekend.

MORE: David Ayres visits the TODAY show

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.