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Marc-Edouard Vlasic still really, really frustrated with NHL’s Olympic decison

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We know that NHL players aren’t happy that they’ll be playing regular season games this month and not participating in the PyeongChang Olympics, which begin next week. (Those who wouldn’t have been going, of course, would have liked the extra vacation time.)

Since the NHL announced in April that it wouldn’t be sending players for the first time since 1994, players have been outspoken in their disagreement with the decision. “As cool as it for players to be a part of the Olympic experience, it’s a missed opportunity to expand our game,” said Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler during last weekend’s NHL All-Star festivities.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who won gold with Canada in 2014, has been the most vocal.

• When a report came out in Nov. 2016 that the NHL had offered the NHLPA Olympic participation in exchange for extending the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, Vlasic responded, “That’s not the way you negotiate things. But, if that is true, all of a sudden they don’t mind having a two-week break in the NHL for a three-year collective bargaining agreement.”

• “It happens once every four years, but now we put in the World Cup, so a condensed schedule happens every two years,” he said via the Mercury News right after the NHL’s decision. “But for the World Cup it’s OK. Guys get injured in the World Cup, but that’s OK. Shorter summers, longer seasons, but that’s OK.”

• “What I’d like is for the NHL to openly give the real reasons for its refusal to go to Pyeongchang,” he wrote last June.

So, yeah, Vlasic is really pissed about not being able to represent Canada again. In a chat with Ross McKeon of SFGate.com, the 30-year-old defenseman detailed the lengths at which he went to get another opportunity.

“I would love to in 2022,” he said. “I’m fighting not only for myself in ’22, but for every other player who gets a chance to do it in 2026, ’30, ’34 and down the road. I’m not just thinking of myself, I’m thinking about all the players who deserve to go.”

That determination is what moved Vlasic to hold a conference call with lawyers and the NHL Players’ Association. Termination of his extension (which was signed July 1) was a possibility. The Sharks could be targeted for a suit, and ultimately Vlasic could be, too, if it could be proved that the product San Jose was putting on the ice during his absence wasn’t as good as if he had been playing.

According to Vlasic, he was told that a court order could be issued if a player still insisted on going. And, ultimately, a player could be arrested for violating the order if he played.

“I don’t think it would have gone that far, but it’s a possibility,” said Vlasic, who noted his initial thought when the league made its decision was to go no matter what.

Vlasic added that players should have Olympic participation guaranteed by putting it in the next CBA, which several players told me they expect to be a topic when negotations begins. He sees the benefits that putting the game on that stage can have, and while he won’t completely ignore the 2018 tournament in PyeongChang, don’t expect him to carve out time in his busy schedule for a game.

“Am I going to watch the hockey? I’ll probably see the highlights,” he told McKeon. “I won’t sit down and watch it.”

MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey schedule

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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.

Looking to make the leap: Mirco Mueller

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Like most things in San Jose last year, Mirco Mueller’s progression didn’t go exactly to plan.

Mueller, the 20-year-old blueliner San Jose took 18th overall in 2013, started out the year in the NHL as part of GM Doug Wilson’s “tomorrow team” movement, only to see his ice time dwindle by early December.

From there, he was loaned to Team Switzerland for the World Juniors and, upon returning, was shuffled back and forth between San Jose and the club’s AHL affiliate in Worcester, before a thumb injury in late March ended his year.

All told, Mueller appeared in just 39 games for the Sharks, three for Worcester and six for Switzerland — not a ton of hockey for a youngster that needs all the reps he can get.

Which begs the question — where will he get them this year?

On paper, Mueller appears to be part of the club’s six-man defensive unit, along with Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon and newly acquired Paul Martin. But the Swiss rearguard will have some pretty heady competition for that spot, particularly in the form of Matt Tennyson, who appeared in a career-high 27 games last year, and Dylan DeMelo,  a 22-year-old prospect who, according to AHL bench boss Roy Sommer, is ready to make the leap himself.

Speaking of the American League, it could end up being the place where Mueller starts this season.

There were worries San Jose rushed him to the NHL last year and it’s important to remember that, of all the d-men taken in the first round in ’13, only Seth Jones and Rasmus Ristolainen have emerged as regulars; some have argued that Nikita Zadorov, taken two spots ahead of Mueller, was also rushed to the NHL (and has since been traded to Colorado).

What’s more, the likes of Philly’s Samuel Morin (No. 11), Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey (No. 13) and the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock (No. 15) have yet to even make their big-league debuts.

Mueller knows that, based on his age and number of players looking to stick with the Sharks, this fall’s training camp will go a long way in deciding his fate.

And he knows the challenge will be difficult.

 “It’s always competitive,” he said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “A lot of jobs are on the line.”

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.

B’s sign former Sharks d-man Irwin: one year, $800,000

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The Boston Bruins have added some depth on defense, in the form of Matt Irwin.

Irwin, 27, signed a one-year, $800,000 deal with the Bruins on Friday, the club announced. He arrives in Boston having played 53 games for the Sharks last year, racking up an impressive eight goals — trailing only Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic among San Jose d-men — and 19 points, while averaging 17:01 TOI per night.

An undrafted free agent out of UMass Amherst, Irwin has spent his entire professional career with the Sharks organization. He had two very solid years to start his tenure — during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, he had 12 points in 38 games as a rookie; in ’13-14, he scored a career-high 20 points.

Last year, though, seemed to be something of a setback. Injuries and healthy scratches kept him from playing as big a role on the Sharks’ defense, and GM Doug Wilson allowed Irwin to walk in free agency.

Heading West: Paul Martin signs four-year, $19.4M deal in San Jose

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The San Jose Sharks have scored one of the biggest UFA defenseman prizes, inking former Pittsburgh blueliner Paul Martin to a four-year deal.

UPDATE: Per CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz, it’s a $4.85 million average annual cap hit — $19.4 million total. It makes Martin the team’s second highest-paid defenseman, behind Brent Burns.

Martin, 34, has spent the last five seasons in Pittsburgh and further established his reputation as a solid, all-around veteran defenseman. After an injury-filled ’13-14 campaign he rebounded nicely last year, scoring 20 points in 74 games while averaging 22:47 per night — and in the playoffs, with the Penguins’ defense decimated by various ailments, Martin averaged a whopping 24:36.

In San Jose, he’ll add to a defense that already included Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon, who recently inked a five-year pact with an average annual cap hit of $3.27 million. On paper, it’s a good defensive unit with nice depth that should help with new head coach Peter DeBoer’s prediction of a “big bounce-back” season in San Jose.