In this edition of San Jose Sharks News & Rumors, several names have popped up as potential options for the team’s vacant general manager (GM) position, with two very interesting ones being Kevin Weekes and Jason Botterill. In other news, long-time Shark Joe Thornton may have appeared in the final NHL game of his illustrious career on Monday night, as he and his Florida Panthers teammates were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last but not least, the Sharks announced on Thursday that they have signed Mitchell Russell to a three-year, entry-level deal.
Sharks’ GM Search Continues
With Doug Wilson stepping down as the Sharks’ GM last month, the team continues to look at potential options to fill the role. Last week, former NHLer Ray Whitney was reportedly interviewed for the job, though he is far from the only candidate. In fact, according to Elliotte Friedman, some well-known names in Kevin Weekes and Jason Botterill may also be in the running.
For Weekes, this isn’t the first time his name has been linked to this job. However, Friedman reconfirmed on his 32 Thoughts Podcast that the former NHL netminder is still in the mix. Though the 47-year-old doesn’t have front office experience, he is very knowledgeable about the game and currently serves as an analyst for ESPN.
As for the other name Friedman dropped in Botterill, there hadn’t been much if any chatter in regards to him being considered for the role. As Friedman mentioned on his podcast, his tenure as the Buffalo Sabres’ GM didn’t go as hoped, though it is believed by many that the team owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, have a significant say in what moves their team makes. Botterill has also held an interim GM position with the Pittsburgh Penguins and currently serves as the assistant GM for the Seattle Kraken.
Thornton’s Career May Be Complete
When signing with the Panthers this past offseason, Thornton did so in hopes of winning his first ever Stanley Cup. It appeared to be a great move, as he and his teammates took home the Presidents’ Trophy after a phenomenal regular season in which they had a record of 58-18-6. And while the 42-year-old struggled with injuries and is clearly no longer the dominant force he once was, he was still able to chip in with 10 points in 34 games.
For the first time since he was a member of the Sharks back in 2019, Thornton advanced past the first round, as the Panthers were able to knock off the Washington Capitals in Game 6. Unfortunately, however, they were outed soon after by the Tampa Bay Lightning, who swept them in convincing fashion on Monday night.
Perhaps sensing it could very well be their last game, Panthers coach Andrew Brunette chose to dress Thornton in Game 4 on Monday for the first time in the playoffs. He, along with the rest of the team, were held without a point in the loss, as Andre Vasilevskiy recorded yet another playoff shutout.
Given how slow he appeared at times this season, it’s hard to imagine another team will give Thornton a deal for the 2022-23 season. By all accounts, he still loves the game and would continue his career if the opportunity presented itself, but this could have been the last we have seen from Jumbo Joe. If that is the case, he ends what has been a first-ballot Hall of Fame type career with 430 goals and 1539 points in 1714 games. One thousand one hundred four of those games came as a member of the Sharks, as did 251 of the goals and 1055 of the points.
Sharks Sign Russell
On Thursday afternoon, the Sharks announced that they had signed undrafted free agent forward Mitchell Russell to a three-year, entry-level contract. The 21-year-old finished up his junior hockey career this season with the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), having recorded 41 goals and 88 points in just 64 games. He’s also played in an additional 11 playoff games thus far and has an impressive 11 goals and 22 points.
“Mitchell is a character player and leader on the ice with good production that helps his team win,” said Sharks interim GM Joe Will. “He has a strong pedigree as a skater who was selected in the first round of the OHL draft.”
What makes Russell’s 2021-22 season all the more impressive was that he was forced to sit out the entire 2020-21 campaign due to the OHL not playing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite not playing in any games, his production increased in a big way compared to the 2019-20 season, in which he had 21 goals and 42 points in 51 contests. By no means has it come easy for him, but his hard work and perseverance have paid off. He is expected to play the 2022-23 season for the San Jose Barracuda in the American Hockey League.
Looking Ahead for the Sharks
With the Stanley Cup Playoffs ongoing, there isn’t a ton of news involving the Sharks at the moment. However, one would imagine they would like to have their GM in place before the NHL Entry Draft, which will take place on July 7 and 8. While they are still in the process of interviewing potential candidates, there should be a better idea in the coming weeks as to who the frontrunner for the job is.