NHL Rumor Mill – August 3, 2020
Check out the latest on Joe Thornton and Jake Virtanen in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: During the “Headlines” intermission segment on Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast, Elliotte Friedman reported Joe Thornton could play some games in Switzerland this fall before returning to the San Jose Sharks.
“Every August, he goes to Switzerland. We know the Sharks won’t be playing until December,” Friedman said. “The NHL and NHLPA have allowed players to sign overseas with clauses to come back then. Does Joe Thornton sign overseas in Switzerland to play and be ready, in better shape even, to return to the NHL for his 23rd season?”
The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz followed up on Friedman’s report:
Regarding @FriedgeHNIC report yesterday that Joe Thornton could play some games in Switzerland in fall — not that Elliotte needs confirming, but my understanding is that’s true. Joe in Switzerland now with family and plans to start skating again soon. No concrete plans yet, tho
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) August 2, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton, 41, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He’s expressed interest in continuing his NHL career. It could be with the Sharks on a one-year, bonus-laden deal. They’re pressed for cap space, carrying over $66 million invested in 13 players for next season. Nevertheless, if there’s a way to bring back Thornton for another season, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will probably consider it.
Playing overseas during the NHL’s off-season might not be a bad idea for some of the players on the seven non-playoff clubs. Their last meaningful games were in mid-March when the pandemic derailed the regular season, and they’re now facing a longer-than-usual off-season period. If they can find teams willing to sign them to one-year contracts with NHL out-clauses, some of them (including Thornton) could pursue that option.
Jake Virtanen’s future with the Vancouver Canucks remains uncertain.
“I just get the feeling they’re done with Jake. This is his 1st opportunity to play in a postseason, and this happens. Travis Green has seen Virtanen since 2014, he doesn’t believe in him. He’s seen his act. Are they going to commit to him? No way”@DonTaylor5 @DonnieandTheMoj pic.twitter.com/DJ99yqFPdu — TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) July 30, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games, Virtanen seemed to be enjoying a long-awaited breakout performance this season. Nevertheless, it seems like the Canucks coaching staff has grown disenchanted with his efforts.
The 23-year-old winger has been criticized for inconsistency and indifferent defensive play. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the off-season. With the Canucks looking to shed salary to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and perhaps Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev, Virtanen could be a trade candidate.