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Sharks have talked to Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau

GM believes it may be difficult to retain pending unrestricted free agent forwards

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Pending unrestricted free agent forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have had some dialogue with the San Jose Sharks.

Thornton and Marleau, each 37, can become unrestricted free agents on July 1. It is unknown if either will return to San Jose for another season.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson, however, said Thornton's postseason surgery to repair torn MCL and ACL ligaments in his left knee will not be a factor.

"[Thornton's] doing extremely well," Wilson said during a conference call Friday. "He's been in here every day, looks really good. I don't think there's any doubt he'll be ready and fit to start the season. The work that he's put in already, that's pure Jumbo He loves the game. I see him every day here at the rink.

"As far as negotiations, some of it depends on what the overall [salary] cap number's going to be. And obviously there's some other key contracts that I have to try to get in place. As far as both [Marleau] and [Thornton], we've had some dialogue. That will continue."

Wilson said it's a priority to secure contract extensions for defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goaltender Martin Jones. Each has one year remaining on his contract.

"Obviously we've got some priority contracts of Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, which we're making some progress on, but there's still some work to be done," Wilson said.

Marleau and Thornton own most of San Jose's offensive records, but they'll also both be 38 when the upcoming season begins. Despite what they've meant to the Sharks for so many years, Wilson said he has to operate under a cap system, which puts limits on what he can offer Thornton and Marleau.

Video: MTL@SJS: Marleau smashes home Thornton's feed for PPG

"You sometimes have to make tough decisions." Wilson said. "Make no mistake about our respect and appreciation for them will never end. Under a cap system we'll see and we'll navigate ourselves through this. We've been very fortunate to have players like this play at as high a level as they have. How important they are to this franchise will not be forgotten. When it comes to making the hockey decisions, we have to make the decisions under this system, the cap system that makes sense.

"They've meant a lot to us, they mean a lot to us. It goes back to making this a place where players want to play. It's great when players want to be here, players of their ilk who have set the standard for everyone else. We're exploring it, trying to do everything we can to make the rest decision for this franchise. They have choices also obviously. But they know how we feel about them. The conversations we have between ourselves and them will be kept in private but are extremely respectful."

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