SAN JOSE — Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was nonchalant Saturday about bringing back any of his pending unrestricted free agents, including franchise icon Patrick Marleau, as several roster changes appear imminent for the team.
After a weekend in which the Sharks welcomed nine new players to the organization via the draft, many others could be let go as the team turns the page on a disastrous 2019-2020 season.
NHL free agency starts on Wednesday and right now Marleau, Marcus Sorensen, Kurtis Gabriel, Max Letunov and Greg Petrin – all pending UFAs – have little standing in the way of going to market.
The Sharks will also soon have to decide whether to buy out the remaining three years on goalkeeper Martin Jones’ contract or issue a qualifying offer to Ryan Donato, a pending banned free agent.
Monday is the deadline for NHL teams to issue qualifying offers to the RFA, and the first window for teams to purchase contracts expires on Tuesday.
“You had to be ready to draft the expansion and then you’re looking at whether you qualify people, do you keep them, do you want to add,” Wilson said. “Those are things that are clearly coming to a head in the next few days.”
Marley became the NHL’s all-time leader in games played in April when he skated in his 1,768th game, surpassing a mark set by Gordy Howe after a 26-year career in the league. Marleau, 41, is now in 1,779 games, and said in May that he would like to continue playing in the NHL.
Attempts to reach Marleau and his agent Pat Brisson were unsuccessful on Saturday.
Marleau is the Sharks’ all-time career leader in games played (1,607), goals (522) and points (1,111), which are never to be surpassed. Marleau was signed to a one-year deal by the Sharks in October last year.
“For me, for Patty to break Gordy Howe’s record, it had to be in the Sharks jersey. It had to be there,” Wilson said. “Iconic players, when they wind up and wrap up their careers, whether it’s Be it in any sport, it’s really hard to watch.
“But I know our young players and people on our team who have been around Patty or[Joe Thornton]have treated them with a lot of respect for being a teammate, being a player, loving the game, treating the fans. Learned a lot about how to behave. I’m not sure you can really put it into words.”
Marleau wasn’t happy with his stats this past year, however, as he finished his 23rd NHL season with just nine points from 56 games.
“I think we should enjoy and celebrate what this organization has brought to us,” Wilson said of Marleau and Thornton, who are also 41. “And at some point, it ends for everyone.”
Wilson was also asked about reports of friction between Evander Kane and his Sharks teammates inside the Sharks’ locker room last month. Kane led the Sharks last season with 22 goals and 49 points in 56 games.
“I don’t know if there are locker room issues,” Wilson said. “I’m fine when people are disappointed. Neither of us should be happy when we don’t make the playoffs, and you have overly competitive people.”
“One thing that people have to be very careful about is to evaluate a lot of things during a pandemic, the pressure and stress that it puts on everybody.”
Kane was one of several Sharks players who said in May that they did not want to go through rebuilding. Wilson said he would induct “quality veterans” in free agency, as the Sharks hope to return from a consecutive playoff-less season.
After selecting Swedish forward William Eklund in Friday’s first round, the Sharks added eight more players on Saturday, starting with goalkeeper Ben Goudreau in the third round.
Goudreau led Team Canada to the Under-18 World Championships in Texas earlier this year as he was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper. He averaged .919 saving percentage and 2.20 goals in five matches.
The Sharks used their two fourth-round picks ahead of defenseman Gannon LaRock of the WHL’s Victoria Royals and Ethan Cardwell of the OHL’s Barry Colts.
In the fifth round, the Sharks picked Russian defender Artem Guryev, who had moved to Ontario three years earlier, and centered Max McCue of the OHL’s London Knights.
With their two sixth-round selections, the Sharks outranked Liam Gilmartin of America and Theo Jacobson of Sweden. The Sharks used their last pick at number 199 in the QMJHL on Gatineau’s defenseman Evgeny Kashnikov in the seventh round.
The Sharks have now drafted 23 players over the past three years.
Doug Wilson Senior, the Sharks’ director of scouting, said, “Over the years the pool is really mixed now, where we have defensemen, goalkeepers, high upside forwards, depth character forwards.” “It’s a really nice overall, balanced group.”