Rumor Roundup: Will the San Jose Sharks say ‘bye-bye’ to ‘Big Joe’?

Joe Thornton

As San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson considers possible roster moves this summer, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz suggests it might be time for the Sharks to part company with captain Joe Thornton.

Kurz doesn’t pin all the blame on Thornton for the Sharks’ divisional semifinal collapse against the Los Angeles Kings, but considers the club’s lack of leadership was largely responsible. He also believes the Sharks could strip Thornton of the captaincy, perhaps handing it to Joe Pavelski.

While Thornton’s consistently been the Sharks’ top forward for years, they’ve failed to win a championship during his tenure. As they begin turning toward their younger core players for leadership, Kurz feels Thornton’s best chance to hoist the Stanley Cup rests elsewhere.

It remains to be seen if Wilson starts fielding offers for Thornton. Earlier this season he re-signed the 34-year-old center to a three-year, $20-million extension with a no-movement clause.

Wilson could quietly field offers for Thornton in the coming weeks and ask if he has any preferred trade destinations, but there’s still no guarantee he’ll agree to be moved. If he does, there’s probably not many teams to which he’d agree to be dealt. Not only does that limit the potential suitors, but also the type of return the Sharks would get.

WILL BOLLAND DEMAND CLARKSON MONEY TO REMAIN A LEAF?

If center Dave Bolland has his way he’ll re-sign a long-term deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. NBC Sports’ Jason Brough cited the Leafs don’t want to pay Bolland more than what they’re paying Tyler Bozak ($4.2 million per season). Simmons believes if Bolland wants more he’ll have to sign elsewhere.

In February Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported Bolland sought a seven-eight year extension maxing out at $40 million. That’s in the range of $5 million to $5.7 million annually. While that seems like a ridiculously high amount, the Leafs last summer inked free agent winger David Clarkson to a seven-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $5.25 million. No wonder Bolland’s angling for a similar deal.

It’s possible the Leafs could talk Bolland down. They did the same last year with Bozak when he sought over $5 million per. Bolland must decide just how much he’s willing to come down to remain a Leaf for life.

PENS’ GM SEARCH PUTS RE-SIGNINGS IN LIMBO

Contract negotiations between the Pittsburgh Penguins and pending free agents Matt Niskanen, Jussi Jokinen, Brooks Orpik and Brandon Sutter remain in limbo as ownership continues its search for a new general manager to replace the recently-fired Ray Shero.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson cited TSN analyst Craig Button wondering if the Penguins could “go to the well” to re-sign Niskanen. Button points out promising Penguins blueliners Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot are sidelined by off-season shoulder surgery until November at the latest.

With $55 million invested in just 14 players, the Penguins have a projected $15 million in cap space. Re-signing Niskanen could eat up nearly half of that, which won’t leave much to re-sign or replace Jokinen, Orpik and Sutter.

If Niskanen prices himself out of the Penguins’ price range, they could be forced to consider affordable short-term options. One could be 37-year-old Dan Boyle, who could be had for a two-year deal for around $5 million per season. Other options include Marek Zidlicky (37) and Andrei Markov (35), though the latter could seek a longer term.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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