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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: Pastrnak sets one playoff record, ties another after six-point night

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Saturday’s games:

Predators 5, Avalanche 4 (Predators lead 2-0)

The Preds led 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 and the Avs just kept coming, but in the end, they didn’t have enough gas to find an equalizer and head to Denver down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series. Kevin Fiala led the way for the Preds with a goal and an assist. Nathan MacKinnon scored his first goal of the series, so the Avs will be hoping that opens the floodgates in Game 3.

Lightning 5, Devils 3 (Lightning lead 2-0)

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists and the Lightning put up five goals for the second time in the series. And while Kucherov had a good game, it’s the second line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson who kept doing the heavy lifting for Tampa. That line had four more points in Saturday’s game and now have 10 over the first two games as the series shifts to New Jersey,

Bruins 7, Maple Leafs 3 (Bruins lead 2-0)

You can read about the battering here. The TL;DR version: David Pastrnak gets a hat trick and records six points. Bruins notch four goals on their first seven shots, chase Frederik Andersen in the first period and cruised to their second dominant win. Toronto needs help. Fast.

Sharks 3, Ducks 2 (Sharks lead 2-0)

Tomas Hertl‘s first goal of the playoffs 1:11 into the second period stood as the game-winner as Sharks held onto a 3-2 lead in the third period, riding Martin Jones‘ 28 saves, including 11 in the final frame.  Logan Couture had a goal and an assist in the win. Evander Kane had seven shots on goal and came close to rekindling the success he found in Game 1. John Gibson, despite the loss, made 32 saves and was vital in keeping the game close as the Sharks pressed in the third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. David Pastrnak, Bruins: I mean, the guy had a hat trick and a six-point night. In the playoffs. You don’t see that too often. Pastrnak was dominant against the Maple Leafs, who don’t appear to have the slightest of chances in this series based on the first two games. Pastrnak is very much responsible for that with his nine points in that span. His line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is simply unstoppable with its 20 points. Good luck back at home, Toronto. You’re going to need it.

2. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning: Kucherov scored the game-winner and assisted on both of Alex Killorn‘s markers for a three-point night to help the Lightning to a 5-3 win and a 2-0 series lead on the Devils.

3. Logan Couture, Sharks: Couture announced his arrival in the Western Conference series against the Ducks with a goal and an assist, which proved important as the apple was on Hertl’s game-winner in the second period. The Sharks now get to head to the Shark Tank home having stolen two wins in SoCal. Advantage San Jose.

Highlights of the Night 

Pastrnak’s hat trick for your viewing pleasure:

John Gibson doing this thing:

Hertl’s game-winner:

Too quick:

Factoids of the Night

Sunday’s schedule

Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild, 7 p.m. ET (USA)
Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals,. 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, NBCSWA)
Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)


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

Sharks drop Golden Knights 2-1 in overtime

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If the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fixing to be one hell of a series,

Thursday’s meeting cemented that. The game had all the ingredients that make up that playoff feel — tight play, tight checking, great goaltending and low scoring. There was urgency from both teams, despite both being near locks to make the postseason.

And it came right down to the last shot of the game.

Logan Couture scored 39 seconds (ironically, Couture’s jersey number) into overtime to clinch a 2-1 win for the Sharks on Thursday night.

The Sharks gained a single point on the Golden Knights and are seven points back of Vegas for first in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining. Perhaps most important, they remained four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, who leapfrogged the Anaheim Ducks with a 7-1 win against Colorado. San Jose owns a game in hand on L.A.

Catching up to Vegas seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. The two teams play each other for the last time next week.

The loss was bittersweet for the Golden Knights, who set record No. 2321778 for a club in their inaugural season.

Malcolm Subban made 42 saves, a career-high after being thrust into action following an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Tomas Tartar got the ball rolling in the game 3:47 into the first period to give the Golden Knights an early lead.

That lead lasted for roughly a period.

Brent Burns tied the game 1-1 at 3:27 of the second period with the slickest of wrist shots from the point.


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

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.