Latest on the Sharks and Penguins – May 9, 2018
Check out the latest on Joe Thornton and Evander Kane plus an update on the Pittsburgh Penguins in your NHL rumor mill.
THORNTON AND KANE
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz reports San Jose Sharks forwards (and pending free agents) Joe Thornton and Evander Kane face uncertain futures. Thornton yesterday revealed he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee back in January, the same injury he suffered in his left knee last season. He’s expressed his willingness to accept another one-year contract with the Sharks for less than the $8 million he earned this season.
Kurz wonders if general manager Doug Wilson has Thornton in his plans after his club remained competitive during the center’s absence. Wilson sang Thornton’s praises but seemed to sidestep a bit when asked if a deal can be worked out. He did say he’s looking forward to sitting down with Thornton and his agent.
As for Kane, Kurz noted Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer praised the left wing’s on-ice performance and how he carried himself off the ice. With 14 points in 17 regular-season games with the Sharks, the 26-year-old Kane could seek at least $6 million annually on a six-year deal. He also played through a separated shoulder and a strained MCL during the playoffs.
Kane could take a wait-and-see approach to free agency. Kurz noted the Sharks are in a good position to contend for the next several years, have plenty of cap space and are in a good location, factors that could be attractive to Kane.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien also reported the futures of Thornton and Kane are among the key questions facing the Sharks. He noted they have sufficient cap room to re-sign both players.
The club has frequently been linked as a possible destination for New York Islanders center John Tavares if he hits the open market on July 1. If the Sharks believe they have a real shot at signing Tavares, it could delay other decisions. The club also has the opportunity to open contract extension discussion this summer with Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.
SPORTSNET: If Thornton and the Sharks fail to reach agreement on a new contract, Rory Boylen lists the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens as potential free-agent destinations.
Boylen said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t noted for making big-splash additions. With his club now among the league’s best and carrying plenty of cap space, perhaps bringing in Thornton as a third-line center could be a shot worth taking. Thornton could be a worthwhile short-term replacement for Tyler Bozak if he and the Leafs part ways this summer.
Thornton’s strong puck-possession numbers could help the Stars and Blue Jackets improve their woeful power play. He could fill a top-six role with the Canadiens, though they’re an unlikely fit if he wants to pursue a Stanley Cup next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Sharks are keen to pursue Tavares this summer, Wilson could ask Thornton and Kane to be patient until they know for certain what’s going on with the Islanders captain. If they land Tavares, it could mean Thornton’s days with the Sharks are over unless he’s willing to accept a massive pay cut. While he said he’s willing to accept less money, he didn’t say how much. Kane fit in very well with the Sharks so I wouldn’t be shocked if he signs a long-term deal with them.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey wondered why Derick Brassard wasn’t as good a fit with the Penguins after joining them in a trade from Ottawa this season. It could be due to an injury he suffered late in season. If he simply wasn’t the right guy, Mackey suggests they consider moving Brassard, who would still have value in the trade market.
Mackay also thinks it might make sense from a business point of view to get out from under the final four seasons of Phil Kessel’s contract. Noting Kessel’s coming off a career-best 92-point season, Mackey believes the winger’s stock has never been higher, making this the best time to move him. However, he also said it not hard to see the Penguins retain Kessel.
With Carl Hagelin entering the final season of his contract ($4 million cap hit), Mackey suggested GM Jim Rutherford could find a suitor if he wanted to move him to free up cap room. He also wondered about the future of goalie Tristan Jarry and speculated defenseman Matt Hunwick could be dealt or bought out.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Penguins have over $70 million invested in 17 players. While all their core players are under contract for next season and the cap is expected to reach $80 million, re-signing depth players such as Bryan Rust, Riley Sheahan, Tom Kuhnhackl and Jamie Oleksiak won’t leave much room to make additions if necessary during next season.
Rutherford could try to shed some salary this summer, though it wouldn’t surprise me if he opts to keep his current roster largely intact for another Cup run next season. If he does try to dump some salary I don’t see Kessel or Brassard being on the move. Hagelin could be part of a cost-cutting move and Hunwick will likely be traded or bought out.