San Jose Sharks News & Rumors: Gadjovich, Thornton, Merkley

In this edition of San Jose Sharks News & Rumors, Jonah Gadjovich’s agent says his client was not involved in the 2018 World Juniors sexual assault scandal. In other news, long-time Shark Joe Thornton says he has not yet made a decision on his NHL career. Last but not least, concern is starting to grow surrounding a once very promising prospect Ryan Merkley in regards to his development, or lack thereof.

Gadjovich Reportedly Not Involved in Scandal

Just days ago, TSN’s Rick Westhead reported that a woman had alleged that she was sexually assaulted by eight Canadian Hockey League (CHL) players, including members of Team Canada from the 2018 World Juniors team. Westhead mentioned that the woman had dropped her lawsuit and reached a settlement with both Hockey Canada and the CHL.

Jonah Gadjovich San Jose Sharks
Jonah Gadjovich, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As soon as this report came out, fans were quick to take a look at Team Canada’s roster from the 2018 tournament. One player who happened to be on that team was Gadjovich, who played in 43 games with the Sharks this season. However, shortly after fans pulled up the roster, Ken Campbell, a former senior writer for The Hockey News, chose to reach out to the player’s agents for comment. Gadjovich’s agent was one of the first to get back to Campbell and claimed his client was not involved in the alleged case.

Gadjovich’s agent stating his client wasn’t involved is not proof, of course. Given that this case has been closed, we may never unfortunately learn exactly who was involved. This is one of several negative stories involving the sport of hockey that have popped up lately and reinforces just how far the game has to go in terms of being inclusive and also respective of everyone.

Thornton Undecided on Playing Career

Thornton and the Florida Panthers being eliminated from the playoffs last week meant that the legendary forward once again fell short in his quest for a Stanley Cup. By all accounts, the 42-year-olds love for the game has been a big reason in him continuing to play, the fact he has not yet won a Cup has likely played a big role as well. While retirement rumors have been floating around as of late, however, he has yet to make a decision on his future.

Related: Revisiting the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson Trade

“I have no idea, I haven’t put any thought into it at all,” Thornton told reporters shortly after the Panthers’ elimination. “It happened so quick, it took me by surprise, so I’m sure I’m going to talk with the family and see what the plan is next.”

When weighing his options this past offseason, a big part of Thornton choosing to sign with the Panthers was that he believed they had a true shot at winning the Stanley Cup. That certainly appeared to be the case as they went on to win the Presidents’ Trophy this season, making their second-round loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning all the more disappointing.

Joe Thornton San Jose Sharks
Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“It’s extremely tough, I didn’t see it coming at all,” said Thornton. “We had such a great regular season and we continued on to Washington, but to get swept against Tampa, it’s something I didn’t see coming.

“I think the guys competed hard all year long and hopefully there are some lessons to be learned there.”

Regardless of whether or not Thornton wants to return for the 2022-23 season, however, it may be difficult for him to find a team willing to sign him. He battled injuries this past year but struggled when healthy, averaging just 11:09 minutes in ice time in the 34 games he played, while only recording five goals and 10 points.

Whatever does end up happening, Thornton has plenty to be proud of when it comes to his career. Though he has not been able to win a Cup, his 1714 games are sixth all-time in NHL history, while his 1109 assists are seventh and his 1539 points are 12th. Whenever he does retire, he will without a doubt be a first-ballot Hall-Of-Famer.

Merkley’s Future Surrounded by Question Marks

When the Sharks chose to draft Merkley in the first round (21st overall) in the 2018 Draft, there were tons of question marks, though none were to do with his on-ice abilities. There were several concerns regarding his character at the time, though that doesn’t seem to be an issue any longer. The problem now involves his development, or, according to some, his lack thereof.

Recently, on the Locked On Sharks Podcast, JD Young looked at other players drafted around the same time as Merkley and how they have fared to this point in their careers. One in particular Young focused on was K’Andre Miller, who was taken one pick after Merkley at 22. While Miller will likely never become an offensive defenceman at the NHL level, he has already appeared in 135 games in his NHL career and has averaged over 20 minutes in ice time in each of his first two seasons. That is far more impressive than Merkley, who suited up for his first 39 career games this past season while averaging just 15:23 per outing.

Ryan Merkley San Jose Sharks
Ryan Merkley, San Jose Sharks (Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In Merkley’s defense, he is still just 21-years-old, meaning he still has time to improve his game. That said, some of his peers from his draft class are certainly outperforming him to this point, which is a cause for concern. The 2022-23 season will be a huge one for him to prove his worth and will go a long way in determining what his next contract will look like.

Looking Ahead for the Sharks

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs still ongoing, we likely won’t hear much news involving the Sharks for some time. That said, there are some big decisions to be made moving forward, the main being who will be this team’s new general manager. Once that move gets made, we should have a better idea as to what direction this team plans on heading.

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