One thing is certain for the Sharks right now: Changes are coming.
After the quickest playoff exit in franchise history last weekend (a five-game series loss to the St. Louis Blues), the Sharks are anticipating an offseason shake-up that could drastically reshape the roster.
“I expect changes,” forward Ryane Clowe said Tuesday. “I don’t know who’s going to be gone and who’s going to be back. Every year’s new faces — I know that.”
Last summer, the Sharks swapped out nine players after reaching the Western Conference finals for a second straight season, adding defensive-minded toughness. But the season was mired by inconsistency and a dismal penalty kill that ultimately wrote the team’s pink slip in the playoffs.
This time around, general manager Doug Wilson might be willing to part ways with members of the team’s core.
Captain Joe Thornton will likely remain the face of the franchise after putting together the best two-way season of his career and leading the team with five points in the playoffs. But 14-year veteran Patrick Marleau is on the hot seat after a pointless series and a bad Game 4 penalty that led to the Blues scoring the game’s winning goal.
“I expect to be here next year,” said Marleau, who has a hefty $13.8 million over two years left on his contract, along with a no-trade clause.
As soon as the Sharks were eliminated, the Rick Nash rumors started churning again. The Columbus Blue Jackets captain expressed interest in joining former-Team Canada teammate, Thornton, on the Sharks at the trade deadline in February; but the price tag for the former Richard Trophy winner, given to the league’s top goal scorer, might be a cornerstone such as Joe Pavelski, Clowe or Logan Couture.
But Thornton said the Sharks could make another deep run in the playoffs next year without a complete overhaul.
“I think the guys we have here can get it done,” he said. “But I’m not Doug [Wilson], I don’t hold any of the cards. I just play and compete.”
Regardless of who’s on the roster, San Jose will need to fix the penalty kill to rebound next year. The Sharks were a solid defensive team, eighth in the league in goals allowed; but the penalty kill was 29th and only 66.7 percent in the playoffs.
“The penalty kill has to get better and it starts with me,” coach Todd McLellan said.