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Sharks' Marleau, Thornton agree on extensions

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has negotiated hundreds of NHL contracts during his front-office career, but he experienced a first when he began discussing new deals for forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

"Both players said one of the priorities was that they'd really only come back if the other one was coming back," Wilson said Friday. "So that created a unique dynamic in the negotiations because it was two individual negotiations but it was contingent to them knowing that we're a better team with both of them instead of just one.

"All I can say is, that tells you the respect between the two players. They both said, 'Well, we'll do this, but the other guy's coming back, correct?' That was really an important part of this process."

That process ended Friday when Wilson announced that Marleau and Thornton each agreed to a three-year contract extension that will begin July 1 when his current deal expires.

Thornton's contract reportedly carries an average annual value of $6.75 million; Marleau's is worth $6.66 million per season. Each includes a no-movement clause.

"We wanted to stay here together and sign together," Thornton told reporters after practice Friday morning. "It's important that we both stay. We both feel like we have a shot to win every year, and I think that's the most important thing. We both really believe in this group of guys, and we want to stay around to see us win a Stanley Cup."

Marleau said "there's probably a good chance" he would have signed with another team if Thornton hadn't agreed to stay with San Jose.

"It's one of those things where we enjoy playing on the same team, we enjoy playing with each other, and we want to win together," Marleau said. "I think that's the way we feel and the way we look at each other."

Thornton and Marleau are 34 years old but neither appears to be slowing down this season.

Thornton, the Sharks captain, leads the NHL in assists (47) this season and is tied for sixth in scoring with 53 points. With 1,171 points (337 goals, 834 assists) in 1,176 NHL games with the Boston Bruins and San Jose, he ranks 48th in points and 25th in assists.

Marleau, one of the fastest skaters in the League, has played well enough to earn a coveted spot on the 2014 Canada Olympic team. He has 21 goals and 47 points this season and 908 points (425 goals, 483 assists) in 1,216 NHL games, all with the Sharks. He holds franchise records for points, goals, power-play goals, shorthanded goals, game-winning goals, and shots.

"I think obviously they've trained hard," Wilson said. "They've played well all year long. Their games have been at a very high level. You have to earn it with your play. It's not what you've done yesterday, it's where you are today and where you're going, and they certainly answered those questions. I don't think it surprises us that they're playing extremely well and at a high level."

Boston selected Thornton with the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, and San Jose chose Marleau No. 2 that year. They became teammates Nov. 30, 2005, when the Sharks acquired Thornton from the Bruins in a trade.

Contract extensions for Thornton and Marleau are the latest moves in a busy season for Wilson. Forwards Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, two of the Sharks' young stars, each signed a five-year contract extension during the summer.

Wilson said Thornton and Marleau signed salary-cap-friendly extensions that will allow the Sharks to keep building and retain their key players.

"I cannot compliment these players enough," Wilson said. "We really appreciate what they've done here with these contracts, and they've done it several times. We as an organization try and make this be a place that players want to play, but players have choices, and when they're high-end players like this, they have not only numerous choices of contracts that could be of different dollars and different term, but we really appreciate them helping us keep this group together and contributing in this way. They both did step up. It says a lot about both of them as people and teammates."

Veteran defenseman Dan Boyle's fate with the team remains unclear. He's in the final year of his contract and turns 38 in July. Wilson said, "We certainly will be exploring and continuing negotiations to try and get Dan signed," but Boyle "is in a different situation than Joe and Patty and it's a different type of contract" because he's older.

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