Prior to this season, Joe Thornton's future with the San Jose Sharks came under question when GM Doug Wilson stripped him of the captaincy. This followed a summer of speculation over whether the 35-year-old center might be pressured into waiving his no-movement clause.
Scrutiny over Thornton's relationship with Wilson recently flared up again. The San Jose Mercury News' David Pollak reports Wilson's recent remarks to a group of Sharks season-ticket holders suggesting the stress of the captaincy got to Thornton prompted a terse reply from the latter. “He just needs to stop lying, shut his mouth,” said Thornton.
The spat quickly made the rounds on social media and throughout the NHL. While Thornton and Wilson subsequently met to clear the air, Sharks owner Hasso Plattner also spoke with the pair to defuse the situation.
With the Sharks struggling to reach a playoff spot, there was already a widespread perception they are a dysfunctional team. The war of words between Wilson and Thornton merely reinforced that opinion.
In previous interviews, Wilson said he will never ask Thornton or Patrick Marleau to waive their no-movement clauses. Pollak's colleague Mark Purdy floats the theory Wilson is trying to force Thornton to request a trade, but he doubts the center will do so as he and his family love living in the San Jose area. Given this season's trade deadline has passed, the timing for such a ploy doesn't make sense.
TSN's Bob McKenzie also dismisses the notion that Thornton's squabble with Wilson will lead to an off-season trade. McKenzie feels Thornton's intent is to outlast Wilson and coach Todd McLellan. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch suggests Wilson could try buying out Thornton and Marleau in the summer, though he admits that's a drastic option.
The resolution to this ugly situation could rest with ownership. If Plattner remains confident in Wilson's management, he could try to persuade Thornton and/or Marleau to accept a trade or risk a buyout. Plattner could also decide the Sharks' ongoing woes rests not with the players but in the front office and behind the bench.
A third option, of course, is nothing significant happens, just like last summer. Wilson remains GM, McLellan stays as coach and Thornton and Marleau return with the Sharks for 2015-16. Given the course of events over this season, however, that doesn't seem likely. Something's got to give this summer in San Jose.
KADRI’S SUMMER COULD INCLUDE ARBITRATION
The Toronto Maple Leafs were probably grateful the Thornton-Wilson squabble dominated the NHL headlines. For most of last week, much of the media focus was on the Leafs' handling of 24-year-old center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended three games by the team for a history of immature off-ice behaviour.
Kadri's suspension is the latest in a series of embarrassing headlines for the Leafs as they stumble into the final month of the regular season. With many Leafs fans openly hoping their club tanks the rest of the schedule to improve their their NHL draft lottery odds, the futures of several notable Leafs stars (like Kadri) has become grist for the rumor mill.
When announcing Kadri's second team suspension, Leafs president Brendan Shanahan insisted the front office still considers the young center a vital part of their future. How much they believe in Kadri could be put to the test in the off-season.
Sportsnet's Stephen Burtch notes how other NHL clubs handled similar incidents in the recent past involving young players, like the Boston Bruins with Tyler Seguin and the Philadelphia Flyers with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Those players were traded and went on to stardom with other clubs. Burtch believes the Leafs could make a mistake trading Kadri, suggesting they emulate the Chicago Blackhawks' patience with Patrick Kane, who matured into an invaluable superstar.
Despite Kadri's faults, TSN's Jonas Siegel considers him the Leafs most-skilled player. Siegel points out Kadri is their best puck-possession player and their second-best producer at even strength. He feels Kadri is their only high-end center with room to improve.
This situation will affect contract talks between Kadri's agents and Leafs management. He's a restricted free agent with arbitration rights earning an annual cap hit of $2.9 million. Sportsnet's Doug MacLean believes the Kadri camp could seek over $5 million per season on a long-term deal. If this ends up before an arbiter, Kadri's future in Toronto could be short. A rival club could also test the Leafs willingness to pay up to re-sign him by pitching an offer sheet.
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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