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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

Panthers ready to welcome Mike Hoffman, fiancee with ‘clean slate’

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When Dale Tallon was contacted by Pierre Dorion last week about potential interest in Mike Hoffman, the Florida Panthers general manager thought the asking price from the Ottawa Senators GM was a bit high. He put that conversation to the side until he was contacted Monday night by Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks. Then a deal was made.

It was a wild Tuesday morning that saw Hoffman traded twice in the span of a few hours. He first went from Ottawa to the Sharks and then was later flipped to the Panthers.

“We felt this would be a perfect fit for our team,” Tallon said on a conference call Tuesday morning. “He’s 28, he can score, he can skate, he’s got a cannon for a shot.”

Hoffman, who played with Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for one year with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, has scored 104 goals over the last four seasons and was the type of player Tallon was looking to add to his lineup to potentially play alongside Vincent Trocheck.

“Our power play will be better, too. He’s got a great one-timer, great shot,” Tallon said.

[Sharks flip Hoffman to Panthers]

Dorion was seeking players in a return, presumably so the team could stay above the salary cap floor for next season with more trades likely on the way (Karlsson, Bobby Ryan?). Wilson, however, was merely looking for draft picks for Hoffman as he’s been clearing cap space with many believing he’ll go strong after Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares.

By acquiring Hoffman, that comes with the questions about last week’s allegations about his fiancee cyberbullying Erik and Melinda Karlsson. 

Tallon said he spoke with some of his players and staff and “had no pushback at all” when it came to bringing Hoffman and his fiancee, Monika Caryk, into the Panthers family. “I trust my guys. I trust my staff,” he said.

He also spoke with Hoffman directly and Tallon noted he has a good relationship with the player’s agent, former NHLer Mike Liut. He feels confident that Hoffman and Caryk will be embraced by the team and by the Panthers’ wives and girlfriends.

“Together, we discussed that what happened there is in the past and we’re moving forward with a clean slate,” Tallon said.

————

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 advance after sweep of hapless Ducks

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Few figured the San Jose Sharks would have had it this easy against the Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim came roaring into the postseason, winners of five straight and eight of their past 10 as they worked their way into second place in the Pacific Division

Perhaps they just ran out of gas or, perhaps, the Sharks are quite good at Duck Hunt. Either way, the Sharks made quick work of their California rivals, recording the sweep after a 2-1 win on Wednesday in Game 4.

The truth is the Sharks were far and away the better team in the series and the Ducks — outside of John Gibson — were horribly inept offensively and couldn’t handle the Sharks’ offensive attack, or solve Martin Jones.

After being shutout in Game 1, the Ducks lost a close 3-2 decision in Game 2 only to follow that up with an incredibly embarrassing effort in an 8-1 loss in Game 3.

In Game 4, and on the cusp of being swept, the Ducks managed just a single goal as they went crashing out of the playoffs.

That’s four goals in four games.

Poor John Gibson. The Ducks’ No. 1 faced a combined 69 shots in Games 1 and 2 and then 24 in Game 3 before being pulled, mercifully, in favor of Ryan Miller. In Game 4, Gibson faced a further 24 shots and once again received next to no run support.

The Ducks’ veteran core of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry combined for four points in the series. Perry was shutout entirely and the trio failed to combine for a single goal.

The Sharks were very much the opposite.

Captain Joe Pavelski had a goal and four assists. Logan Couture had two goals and five points. Evander Kane, acquired at the trade deadline, scored three times and added an assist.

And then there was Marcus Sorensen, who in 32 regular season games only scored five times but had three goals and an assist in four games in the series.

Jones got all the run support Gibson didn’t and was equally as good, turning aside 131 of the 135 shots he faced during the four game.

The Sharks will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round after Vegas swept the Los Angeles Kings in four games on Tuesday.


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

WATCH LIVE: Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks

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[Puck drop at 10 p.m. ET, CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE]

PROJECTED LINES

Golden Knights

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonTomas Tatar

David PerronErik HaulaJames Neal

Ryan CarpenterCody EakinAlex Tuch

Tomas NosekPierre-Edouard BellemareRyan Reaves

Brayden McNabbNate Schmidt

Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland

Jon MerrillColin Miller

Starting goalie: Malcolm Subban

[Golden Knights – Sharks preview]

Sharks

Evander KaneJoe PavelskiMelker Karlsson

Tomas HertlLogan CoutureMikkel Boedker

Timo MeierChris TierneyKevin Labanc

Barclay GoodrowEric FehrJannik Hansen

Marc-Edouard VlasicJustin Braun

Paul MartinBrent Burns

Brenden DillonDylan DeMelo

Starting goalie: Martin Jones