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Couture extension continues Sharks’ summer spree

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The San Jose Sharks aren’t messing around this offseason.

The deal won’t become official until Sunday, but Logan Couture is set to sign an eight-year extension with the Sharks worth $64 million.

The signing could kick off a wild next 24 hours for the Sharks, who are reportedly one of the top teams in the running for unrestricted free agent John Tavares.

The team already locked up forward Evander Kane to a seven-year, $49 million contract earlier this spring, further solidifying a forward contingent that was already in the top half of NHL goal-scoring.

Couture was a big part of that, scoring a career-high 34 times to go along with 61 points in 78 games. He had four goals and eight assists in 12 playoff contests with the Sharks.

The move doesn’t change the cap (currently at $60 million and change) for the Sharks this year as Couture’s extension doesn’t kick in for another year.

The Sharks have two pending restricted free agents still to sign in Tomas Hertl (who is going to get paid) and Chris Tierney and have still yet to sign Joe Thornton, who is a UFA and 39 years old but still coveted by the team.

Couture’s signing should make what Sharks choose to do with their captain Joe Pavelski — who is entering the final year on his five-year, $30 million contract — interesting going forward.

But over the next few hours, what Doug Wilson can do regarding Tavares might just cement him as the best GM in the league this summer.

Getting Tavares, without trying to understate this, would be massive for a team that’s solid up front — with Kane, Couture, Pavelski and Hertl — solid on the backend — with Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic — and with a quality goaltender in the crease in Martin Jones.

Wilson has done a solid job of laying out a good future for Tavares to walk into if he so chooses.

And now we wait to see if Tavares wants to build there.


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

The Buzzer: Seven overtimes, four shootouts and a shutout

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Players of the Night:

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars: Bishop made 24 saves en route to his second shutout of the season. Bishop had lost his previous four starts, so it was a nice bounce-back from the veteran netminder. He can also say he backstopped Ken Hitchcock’s 800th win as a head coach now.

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks: Thornton scored twice in Thursday’s 5-4 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks. His second goal was his 1,415th point of his NHL career, moving him into sole possession of 18th spot all-time, one point ahead of Doug Gilmour.

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings: Talk about embracing the moment. Brown, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, scored the overtime winner for the Kings as they squeaked out a 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins: It was the dude’s birthday, and much like Brown did, he took hold of the moment, scoring the shootout winner in a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Coach of the Night: 

Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars: These don’t make regular appearances in The Buzzer, but then again, coaches don’t often record their 800th career NHL win. In fact, only three have even done it and Hitchcock is now one of them. Can you guess the other two? The answer is below.

Highlights of the Night:

Thornton’s second of the night was a pretty nice clap bomb:

Jake Virtanen went coast-to-coast on this fine effort:

Cam Talbot nearly gave up a goal and then he gave us this save:

This dog dropped a puck. It was cute because dog:

Factoid of the Night:

Ken Hitchcock joined some pretty elite company on Thursday:

MISC:

Scores:

Bruins 2, Jets 1 (SO)

Devils 4, Rangers 3 (SO)

Ducks 5, Islanders 4 (OT)

Penguins 3, Blue Jackets 2 (SO)

Lightning 4, Senators 3 (SO)

Hurricanes 4, Predators 1

Stars 4, Blackhawks 0

Oilers 3, Blues 2

Sharks 5, Canucks 4 (

Kings 2, Avalanche 1 (OT)


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

The Buzzer: Charles Hudon opens NHL account; Coyotes win

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Player of the Night: Charles Hudon, Montreal Canadiens

The Habs rookie scored his first two NHL goals an added an assist during an 8-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Artturi Lehkonen also scored twice and Shea Weber chipped in three helpers. Montreal has now won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Highlight of the Night:

While Auston Matthews gets the goal, let’s send William Nylander some love for helping make this play happen.

MISC:

Steven Stamkos had a three-point night vs. Florida and leads the NHL in scoring with 24 points.

The Coyotes win!

John Tavares potted two more goals on Monday and now has nine in his last five games.

Another game, another Vegas goaltender getting hurt.

—Montreal’s eight goals on the road at Ottawa were their most away from Bell Centre since an 8-1 thrashing of Minnesota in 2011.

Alex Radulov was the overtime hero for the Dallas Stars. He now has 10 points in 12 games:

—St. Louis beat the LA Kings 4-2 to improve to 10-2-1, matching their franchise record start set in 1997.

—The San Jose Sharks paid tribute to Patrick Marleau as he returned to SAP Center as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Joe Thornton’s assist moved him passed Jari Kurri for 20th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,399 points.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
NY Islanders 6, Vegas 3
Arizona 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT)
Columbus 4, Boston 3 (SO)
Montreal 8, Ottawa 3
Tampa Bay 8, Florida 5
St. Louis 4, Los Angeles 2
Dallas 2, Vancouver 1 (OT)
San Jose 3, Toronto 2

————

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.

Sharks’ biggest question: Does DeBoer make a difference?

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To be fair, it was time for Todd McLellan to go.

Despite over 300 wins, two Western Conference Finals appearances and a reputation as one of the NHL’s better coaches, the writing was on the wall last year — San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time in the McLellan era, and Sharks GM Doug Wilson all but admitted the dismissal, which was classified as a mutual parting of ways, had to be made.

“Sometimes a change is best for all parties involved,” Wilson said.

So, enter veteran bench boss Peter DeBoer, set to coach his third NHL club after being let go in Florida and New Jersey.

Known for his demanding style and strong tactical acumen — “He’s technically as sound as anyone,” said former boss Lou Lamoriello — DeBoer was brought aboard in late May and wasted no time outlining his goals and plans for the upcoming campaign.

Chief among them?

First, Getting back into the playoffs. DeBoer seemed to downplay Wilson’s previous notion that San Jose was a “tomorrow team,” saying he expects a “big bounce-back” after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.

“The expectation is to win right now,” DeBoer said. “Regardless of the ages or the birth certificates of the players, there’s a tradition here of winning and of challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That’s my expectation.

“I think that’s [GM Doug Wilson’s] expectation, and I don’t think anyone’s looking for anything less than that here.”

Second, the team is going to have a captain.

This was a point of contention throughout McLellan’s final year in San Jose. The decision to strip Joe Thornton of the “C,” then re-implement him as one of the club’s four alternates — the Sharks played without a captain all last year — basically blew up in McLellan and Wilson’s faces; the issue ate away at the team all year long, to the point where one of the club’s leaders, Logan Couture, classified the club’s culture as “not great” by year’s end.

“It’s not something we are going to drag around as a distraction this year,” DeBoer explained, per NHL.com. “We’re going to move past that.

“I think the players are ready for that too; they just want to play some hockey and get this thing back on track.”

But big questions still remain. Specifically, will DeBoer’s playoff proclamation and anointing of a captain really make any difference?

The Sharks are, at their core, still the same team built around the same group of veteran players. Sweater letters or no, Thornton and Patrick Marleau carry major influence in the room, as will Joe Pavelski (who enjoyed his greatest success under McLellan) and Couture (a favorite of McLellan’s).

To his credit, DeBoer knows he’s inheriting a veteran-laden team that, as he put it, has “hit a little bit of a rut here.” His objective is to try and steer the group back on track by reinvigorating the leadership group that was already in place.

A good plan, sure. But not the easiest to execute.

Poll: Who will be San Jose’s next captain?

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After a year in which playing without a captain proved to be a massive distraction, the San Jose Sharks are reversing course for 2015-16 — in fact, one of the first things new head coach Peter DeBoer confirmed upon getting hired is that someone would wear the “C” this year.

Probably a good idea.

Last year’s saga, you’ll recall, began with the club stripping Joe Thornton of his captaincy, then implementing a four-man alternate captain/leadership group comprised of Patrick Marleau (who had his “A” stripped, then given back), Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic… and Joe Thornton.

Yeah, I know. Crazy it didn’t work out!

The situation festered throughout the season, reaching a boiling point in late February and early March. After McLellan went on radio and said the Sharks were “better led” without a captain — which some saw as a shot at Thornton — GM Doug Wilson told a group of ticketholders that Thornton was stripped because the “pressure and stress” of serving as team captain caused him to lash out at people.

Thornton responded, quite appropriately, by lashing out at Wilson.

“I think Doug just needs to shut his mouth. I think that’s the bottom line,” he said. “All I’ve got to say is I’ve been here every day working hard. I haven’t taken a sabbatical.

“He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth.”

This Tet-a-tet forced owner Hasso Plattner to intervene and tell all parties to quit airing the team’s dirty laundry. After missing the playoffs, the Sharks and McLellan “mutually agreed to part ways,” but not before Thornton took a parting shot at his (now former) head coach.

Soooo… does this pretty much rule Thornton out as the next captain?

One would have to think so. Jumbo turned 36 in July and will be a free agent after next season, so the Sharks will likely look to the future, continuing that “tomorrow team” notion that Wilson seems to have stopped talking about entirely.

The team also has candidates ready to make the leap to captain. Pavelski and Vlasic top the list, and McLellan previously talked up Logan Couture as a leader-in-the-making.

With that said, let’s get to the vote. Feel free to add additional candidates in the comments section.