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Sharks hopeful of re-signing Thornton, Pavelski

Offseason optimism growing after securing Karlsson, coach says

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

VANCOUVER -- The San Jose Sharks still have a lot of business to take care of this offseason, but coach Peter DeBoer is excited about how it's going so far.

On Monday, defenseman Erik Karlsson passed on a chance to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and signed an eight-year contract to remain with San Jose. On Wednesday, center Joe Thornton, who turns 40 on July 2, said he's not ready to retire and intends to play at least one more season.

"A good week for us," said DeBoer, who is in Vancouver for the NHL Coaches Association meetings and the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7: 1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN). "The Erik Karlsson [signing] is obviously big. … He's elite and you don't get those type of guys unless you pick first overall in the draft usually."

Video: Erik Karlsson commits long term to Sharks

Karlsson, acquired by San Jose in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 13, had 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) in 53 regular-season games and was tied for second on the Sharks with 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games. But he played through a groin injury for much of the second half of the season and could not play when San Jose was eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on May 21. He had groin surgery 10 days later.

With Karlsson expected to be healthy for the start of next season, DeBoer believes the 29-year-old will be an impact player for the Sharks.

"He played two, two and a half months in January-February where he controlled the game every game," DeBoer said. "He was our best player almost every night and then he got hurt. So we saw enough during that period that we were very comfortable."

Having a defense corps anchored by Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic has DeBoer feeling good about the San Jose's chances to remain Stanley Cup contenders after they finished 46-27-9 this season, second in the Pacific Division to the Calgary Flames.

"It gives us a chance to win," DeBoer said. "You have those guys in the lineup, especially at a key position, it gives you a legitimate chance to win every night if they're healthy."

Thornton's return will help, too. After spending each of the past two off-seasons working his way back from knee injuries -- he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in 2017 and tore the MCL in his right knee in 2018 -- Thornton had a strong 2018-19 season, with 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists), averaging 15:33 in ice time in 73 games.

Video: Burns on his red carpet look, Norris nomination

Though Thornton initially said he needed some time to decide whether he wanted to play next season, DeBoer had no doubt he was going to come back.

"He was in the gym three days after the season ended and I kept running into him," DeBoer said. "I'd go in in the morning and he was usually the only guy in there. That started immediately after the season ended, so I knew that fire was still there. The announcement took a while, but I could tell he wasn't done playing yet."

Thornton can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but has said he will play only for the Sharks. DeBoer doesn't anticipate that signing him will be an issue for San Jose.

"He wants to win," DeBoer said. "How many guys in his position still being as productive as he is would play one-year contracts for the last three or four years? Nobody does that. So I think the contract is the least of the worries."

The picture is less clear regarding center Joe Pavelski, who also can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but DeBoer remains optimistic San Jose can re-sign its captain. Pavelski, who will turn 35 on July 11, led the Sharks with 38 goals this season.

"He's our captain. He's our leader. He's a really hard guy to replace, borderline irreplaceable," DeBoer said. "So I'm hopeful. I don't play a role in that. There's a lot of different things that go into those decisions both for him and the team, but I'm hopeful and I think he wants to be back, so that gives me optimism."

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