NHL Hockey

Sharks head into uncertain offseason with key free agents

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

By JOSH DUBOW

AP Sports Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) If Joe Thornton comes back for a 22nd season in the NHL, it would only be with the San Jose Sharks. Captain Joe Pavelski is confident he will get a deal done to stay with the franchise he joined as a draft pick back in 2003.

The situation with the other major potential unrestricted free agent is far less certain. After Erik Karlsson's injury-plagued first season in San Jose ended with him sitting at home with an injured groin during a Game 6 loss at St. Louis in the Western Conference final, the star defenseman said he hasn't thought yet about his plans for the summer.

"I've been treated with nothing but class and respect here," Karlsson said Thursday. "I've seen the best side of what this organization and this city has and I like everything I've seen. Now I have to kind of regroup and assess everything. A lot of things can happen. It's a weird business we're in. I enjoyed my time here. Whatever happens is going to happen for a reason."

Karlsson had a less-than-ideal season after being acquired as potentially the final piece needed for a championship in a trade from Ottawa on the eve of training camp. He struggled to adjust to his new team early in the season before playing at an elite level for about six weeks when the Sharks looked as good as any team in the league.

Karlsson then injured his groin and missed 27 of the final 33 regular-season games before returning for the playoffs, lacking his usual burst as a skater. Even at less than 100% in the postseason, Karlsson showed flashes of his playmaking with 14 assists and two goals, including the overtime winner in Game 3 against the Blues.

But he was unable to play for a long stretch late in a Game 4 loss and was limited in a Game 5 loss before sitting out the third period. He couldn't go at all in Game 6.

In the final game, the Sharks were also without Pavelski, who re-injured his knee in Game 5, and forward Tomas Hertl, who had a concussion. That left little in the tank for a team that won a pair of Game 7s already in the playoffs, including an epic three-goal comeback in the final game of the first round against Vegas after Pavelski left with a bloody concussion.

"If you lose your difference-makers, it's difficult," general manager Doug Wilson said. "But this group always bounced back and found a way, for that we're extremely proud. No excuses, line up, next man up, all those things that you hear, this group lived that. I'll be honest: I've been in this business 40 years. I think the thing that epitomizes this group is the Vegas game, Game 7 where you see the emotional chaos of your captain going down, being carried off and how the group responded, showed you everything you needed to know about this group. I'll remember that moment forever."

Pavelski and Thornton have been integral parts of the Sharks for years. Pavelski was a seventh-round draft pick in 2003 and has scored 355 goals in 13 seasons, becoming captain and a fan favorite during his journey.

Thornton arrived in a franchise-altering trade from Boston on Nov. 30, 2005, turning the Sharks into a perennial Cup contender that can never quite win it all.

"They drive the environment," coach Peter DeBoer said. "They drive the messaging every day in here. From a coach's perspective, those guys are invaluable people for us."

Whether they come back is not yet certain.

The Sharks opted not to extend Pavelski's contract last summer when he came off a 22-goal season hampered by injuries. But his level of play rose this year with a team-leading 38 goals and he will be eligible to hit the open market in July, shortly before his 35th birthday.

"I know I'm going to be playing hockey next year. Hopefully it's going to be here," he said. "We love it here. I think something will happen, who really knows, but coming off a lot of emotions coming through the playoffs and that round, we'll sit down and take a look at what will happen here."

The situation with Thornton is simpler. If he wants to come back for another season at age 40, it would only be with the Sharks. He plans to sit down with his family and Sharks management before making his decision.

Thornton finished this season for a change after needing major knee surgery the past two years. He's accomplished almost everything in a career, ranking eighth all-time with 1,065 assists and 14th with 1,478 points but hasn't won a championship.

His teammates and coaches talked all postseason about wanting to win for Thornton and came close before ultimately falling six wins short.

"I didn't buy into that," Thornton said. "I think that was more for you guys. I think this whole area needs a Cup. They're definitely on the right track, and just disappointing for this area not to be playing, like I said, next week, but this was a really fun team to watch, entertaining team to watch, and an inspirational team to watch."

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Updated May 23, 2019

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Teams Score Time
NCAA FB
NC State 24 F
Boston College 45
Duke 14 F
Virginia 48
North Carolina 41 F/OT
Virginia Tech 43
Teams Score Time
Auburn 51 F
Arkansas 10
Clemson 45 F
Louisville 10
Florida 38 F
South Carolina 27
Georgia Tech 28 F/OT
Miami 21
NC State 24 F
Boston College 45
Purdue 20 F
Iowa 26
West Virginia 14 F
Oklahoma 52
Wisconsin 23 F
Illinois 24
Duke 14 F
Virginia 48
LSU 36 F
Mississippi State 7
Minnesota 42 F
Rutgers 7
North Carolina 41 F/OT
Virginia Tech 43
Oregon 35 F
Washington 31
Temple 21 F
SMU 45
Tulsa 13 F
Cincinnati 24
UL Monroe 7 F
Appalachian State 52
Baylor 45 F
Oklahoma State 27
Missouri 14 F
Vanderbilt 21
Arizona State 3 F
Utah 21
Kentucky 0 F
Georgia 21
Kansas 48 F
Texas 50
Florida State 20 F
Wake Forest 22
Michigan 21 F
Penn State 28
Tennessee 13 12:40 4th
Alabama 28
Boise State 10 00:00 Half
BYU 7
Teams Score Time
American League
New York 2 9th
Houston 4
New York   7:38pm
Houston  
Teams Score Time
Arizona   1:00pm
New York  
Houston   1:00pm
Indianapolis  
Jacksonville   1:00pm
Cincinnati  
Los Angeles   1:00pm
Atlanta  
Miami   1:00pm
Buffalo  
Minnesota   1:00pm
Detroit  
Oakland   1:00pm
Green Bay  
San Francisco   1:00pm
Washington  
Los Angeles   4:05pm
Tennessee  
Baltimore   4:25pm
Seattle  
New Orleans   4:25pm
Chicago  
Philadelphia   8:20pm
Dallas  
New England   Mon 8:15pm
New York  
Teams Score Time
Vancouver 0 F
New Jersey 1
Montreal 5 F
St. Louis 2
Boston 3 F/OT
Toronto 4
Colorado 6 F
Tampa Bay 2
Dallas 4 F
Philadelphia 1
New York 3 F/OT
Columbus 2
Ottawa 2 F
Arizona 5
Vegas 3 F
Pittsburgh 0
Florida 3 F/SO
Nashville 2
Calgary 0 00:00 2nd
Los Angeles 4
Buffalo 1 05:10 2nd
San Jose 1
Vancouver   1:00pm
New York  
Montreal   5:00pm
Minnesota  
Edmonton   7:00pm
Winnipeg  
Washington   7:00pm
Chicago  
Calgary   9:00pm
Anaheim  
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES AT TALLADEGA
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 12 Ryan Blaney 9
2 6 Ryan Newman 13
3 11 Denny Hamlin 40
4 10 Aric Almirola 5
5 34 Michael McDowell 22
6 3 Austin Dillon 20
7 32 Corey Lajoie 33
8 9 Chase Elliott 1
9 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 7
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES AT KANSAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 19 Brandon Jones 2
2 2 Tyler Reddick 4
3 98 Chase Briscoe 11
4 1 Michael Annett 38
5 7 Justin Allgaier 7
6 51 Jeremy Clements 6
7 11 Justin Haley 12
8 23 John Hunter Nemechek 15
9 39 Ryan Sieg 13
NASCAR GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES AT TALLADEGA
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 20 Spencer Boyd 25
2 4 Todd Gilliland 6
3 51 Riley Herbst 7
4 24 Brett Moffitt 8
5 52 Stewart Friesen 10
6 16 Austin Hill 13
7 17 Tyler Ankrum 2
8 88 Matt Crafton 1
9 2 Sheldon Creed 5