SAN JOSE -- The Sharks may not have made it to the Stanley Cup finals yet, but general manager Doug Wilson made a strong statement Friday that he believes his core group of players can get them there.
Wilson signed veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to three-year contract extensions that will keep them in San Jose at a cap hit slightly below what the team had been paying them. Thornton's deal averages $6.75 million per season, while Marleau's figure is $6.66 million.
"These are two elite players that have played extremely well this year," Wilson said. "What I love about them is not only do they make some of the other players around them much better, but they've really allowed the growth of the Logan Coutures, and the Marc-Edouard Vlasics and the Joe Pavelskis."
Thornton and Marleau, both 34, said they weren't interested in testing the free-agent market July 1 but wanted to be sure the other was included in the team's future plans. And both confirmed they had no-movement clauses in their new contracts.
"If he wasn't going to re-sign here, there's probably a good chance I wouldn't have re-signed here, as well," Marleau said. "It's one of those things where we enjoy playing on the same team, and we want to win together."
Added Thornton: "We both feel like we have a shot to win every year, and that's the most important thing. We both really believe in this group of guys."
The two have had their careers linked since the 1997 entry draft when the Boston Bruins picked Thornton first overall and the Sharks selected Marleau with the next pick. San Jose acquired Thornton in November 2005, and since then the team has been considered among the NHL's elite. Marleau is the franchise's all-time leading scorer with 908 points; Thornton is second with 717.
The Sharks had three key veterans with contracts expiring June 30 and at the start of the season, Wilson indicated he was hoping to bring all three back. Friday's announcement leaves defenseman Dan Boyle, 37, the only one still unsigned.
Wilson noted Boyle's age puts him in a different contract position because of terms in the league's collective bargaining agreement, "but we certainly will be exploring and continuing negotiations to try and get Dan signed."
The two players Wilson did sign are having strong seasons. Thornton leads the NHL in assists with 47 and his 53 points lead the Sharks; Marleau's 21 goals and 47 points helped earn him a spot on Team Canada's roster for the Sochi Olympics.
Critics point to the team's failure to reach its ultimate goal during the Thornton-Marleau era as a concern, but coach Todd McLellan said that only serves as motivation going forward.
"The hunger grows as you get older because your opportunity for success is shorter," McLellan said.
And McLellan said he wasn't concerned that there would be a decline in either player's level of play by the end of the deal.
"We were referencing Jumbo (Thornton) the other day when we talked about wine and how he gets better with time," McLellan said. "I don't see Patty slowing down. He's remained healthy, he scores goals. I think they're just going to keep the same level at least and maybe get better."
Both Thornton and Marleau had said all along they expected to be back in San Jose. While Thornton's brother, John, serves as his agent, Marleau negotiated directly with Wilson after the death of agent Don Baizley last summer.
"I was able to pick up a lot along the way with Don and had a lot of faith in Doug, as well, that we could come to an agreement," Marleau said.
Thornton's current contract had a $7 million cap hit, just above Marleau's at $6.9 million.
Minnesota (28-20-5) at Sharks (33-12-6), 7:30 p.m., CSNCA
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