The San Jose Sharks extended head coach Todd McLellan this summer, after yet another disappointing exit from the playoffs in the second round. McLellan came on bored in San Jose in 2008, after leaving the Detroit Red Wings assistant coaching job. McLellan has enjoyed plenty of regular season success in San Jose, but the Sharks always seem to stumble in the playoffs.
Coming into this season, there are a few big names in the Sharks line-up that will be entering the final season of their contracts. Sharks captain, Joe Thornton will be turning 35 next summer, and is hardly worth the $7 million cap hit anymore. The 34 year old center has seen his numbers dip off the past few seasons, and the aging forward isn’t getting any younger.
The curious case of the hot and cold Patrick Marleau. Marleau is one of the league’s streakiest players, and he is entering into the last season of his 4 year deal. Marleau’s cap hit is sitting at a nice fat $6.9 million. Marleau’s 34 now, and by the beginning of next season, he’ll be 35. His numbers have dipped more so than Thornton in the past few years.
Dan Boyle is still an excellent defender, and the NHL is a much easier place for an aging defenseman rather than a forward in his mid 30′s. Boyle’s six year deal is coming to a close, and his cap hit of $6.66 million will be drastically lower I would presume. Boyle will be 38 by the start of next season, but has said he wants to play for two more seasons.
The Sharks stars are aging, and the organization is going to have to make some big decisions this coming year. I’m assuming Dan Boyle will stay with the organization until his retirement, whenever that may be. But what about the future of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau? Both forwards are getting older, they’re past their prime and the numbers will more than likely continue to slip.
We saw this summer how willing teams are to pay big name forwards past their prime, Vincent Lecavalier‘s 5 year deal worth $22.5 million is a great example in Philly. But will San Jose be willing to commit to a deal like that for Thornton or Marleau? Now that we know what the market value is, whether Vinny was over overpaid or not, Marleau and Thornton now know what they can get if the Sharks aren’t willing to give them the money they want.
So is this season the last chance for the Sharks? I believe it is, if they want to win a Stanley Cup, they need to do it now, while Thornton and Marleau can still play at a pretty high level. The skill isn’t going to last forever, and after this season, both of them could be long gone. This is the last chance for the Sharks to make a legitimate push for the Cup.