In less than 48 hours, the two men most associated with the San Jose Sharks for more than a decade could be packing their bags. It's nearly impossible to picture the Sharks without Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but that may soon become a reality, as each player will be free to sign elsewhere at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.
To be clear, the door hasn't closed yet on either – or both – returning to San Jose. At the same time, there have been no indications that the Sharks are remotely close to coming to an agreement with either one. The chances that the Sharks announce anything with either player before Saturday's opening bell are slim to none.
There will be concrete offers on the table from other teams to ponder, and based on reports since the window opened on Sunday for them to speak with other clubs, there will plenty of them.
In Thornton's case, a recent report had the Los Angeles Kings in hot pursuit. That doesn't mean the Kings are his most likely destination, just that more information leaked out of Southern California than anywhere else. You can be sure that there is plenty of interest elsewhere for Thornton's services, and although he may prefer to stay close to the Bay Area if he doesn't remain with the Sharks, other teams like the Rangers, Blues, Predators, Penguins or Maple Leafs might be more appealing.
As for Marleau, his name has been linked to the Ducks, Predators, Maple Leafs and Flames – with Calgary, especially, looking more like a potential fit as it's driving distance from his hometown of Aneroid, Saskatchewan – but, again, there are certain to be more teams than those listed that have inquired about his services.
In recent days, some credible national reporters have pointed out that Marleau returning to San Jose is of vital importance to Thornton, which is consistent with what we reported back on May 22. Frankly, it seems that not much has changed since that piece, as hopeful Sharks fans have come to realize there were never any back-room handshake agreements with the pair for after the June 21 expansion draft.
But it's worth repeating that Thornton does, in fact, want to win with his longtime teammate by his side.
Back on Jan. 14, 2014, when the Sharks announced three-year contract extensions for both, Thornton's deal had been done for some time. He preferred to wait for Marleau's to be done, too, so they could announce them on the same day. That's further evidence of how much Thornton respects the longest-tenured Sharks player, and how he may only want to come back to San Jose if the Sharks get Marleau signed, too.
If that's a hill that Thornton is willing to die on, it could mean they will both depart. Put another way, if the Sharks aren't willing to extend multi-year offers to both Thornton and Marleau, it may be the end of an era.