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Friday, January 24, 2014
Sharks do it right with Marleau, Thornton

By Pierre LeBrun


The San Jose Sharks continue to hit home runs when it comes to managing their cap structure, and Friday's contract extensions signed by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are just the latest example.

Give credit to both veteran stars, who obviously didn’t want to go anywhere, but there’s no question had they gone to market July 1 they could have gotten more years and more dollars than what they agreed to with San Jose.

They’re still making very good money. Marleau will earn $6.66 million per year, Thornton $6.75 million per, but both would have cleared $7 million a year on the open market and gotten more than three years.

But that’s a credit to the culture that’s been created in San Jose, where players are willing to bend a little in order to make it all work within the team structure dynamic. In a league where so many teams are hamstrung by long-term deals that they will one day surely regret, the Sharks only have three players signed past the 2016-17 season.

And those three players, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, are in their prime right now. In fact, even those three star players took less to make it work the San Jose way.

Couture and Pavelski have identical five-year, $30 million extensions kicking in next season. Star players their age around the league are often signing at least for seven or eight years, but both Couture and Pavelski agreed to take five-year deals instead.

Vlasic, meanwhile, is in the first year of a five-year deal paying him on average $4.25 million a season. A bargain indeed.

Goalie Antti Niemi is in the third year of a four-year deal paying an average of $3.8 million per season. I think you know how cheap that is for a top-10 goalie in the league.

Hats off, therefore, to GM Doug Wilson for the way he’s managed his team/cap structure. Pretty impressive work for sure. Wilson has been criticized for not winning a Stanley Cup in San Jose over the past decade despite the good hockey teams he’s built, but let’s also point out that his team has played the second-most playoff games in the NHL behind only Detroit since 2004.

No question Wilson will always hear about it if his team never wins it all, especially with California cousins Anaheim and Los Angeles both winning the Cup during his time as Sharks GM. Still, you can’t say he’s not doing everything he can within the financial parameters of a medium-sized NHL market like San Jose to give the Sharks a chance to win every year.

And judging from their team salary structure for the next five years, they’ll be in the mix for a while yet.