JOE THORNTON knew for a while he was re-signing with the San Jose Sharks for three more years. He just waited for Patrick Marleau to get the same assurance.
On Friday, Thornton and Marleau each signed three-year contract extensions to keep San Jose's perennial playoff core intact. Thornton got US$6.75 million per season, while Marleau got an average of $6.67 million.
Unsurprisingly, the franchise cornerstones came as a package deal.
"Both players said one of the priorities is that they really would only come back if the other one was coming back," general manager Doug Wilson said on a conference call Friday afternoon. "It was contingent (on) them knowing that we're a better team with both of them instead of just one."
Thornton's agent/brother John said in a phone interview the Sharks captain wanted to win in San Jose alongside Marleau but also recognized his value to the team.
"Is it the same team without a 35-goal scorer?" John Thornton said. "It's a different team without him. You can't just replace Patrick Marleau."
Fortunately for the Sharks, they won't have to.
This is Marleau's 16th season with the Sharks after being their second overall pick in the 1997 draft. In 1,216 career games, he has 425 goals and 483 assists -- both franchise records -- and was captain from 2003 through 2009. The Sharks have made the playoffs in all but one season of Marleau's career.
Thornton has been Marleau's teammate in San Jose since a November 2005 trade from the Boston Bruins and has been captain since 2010. Since the trade, he has 168 goals and 549 assists, second in points to only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and the Sharks also have the most points and regular-season victories in the NHL.
John Thornton had no trouble seeing this kind of success more than eight years ago. "I knew my brother would be one of the best as long as he wants to be one of the best," he said.
Thornton leads the Sharks in scoring with 53 points on six goals and 47 assists, while Marleau is third with 47 points on 21 goals and 26 assists.
-- The Canadian Press