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SAN JOSE Mathew Barzal Jersey , Calif. (AP) Joe Thornton talked to several teams last summer when he made his first trip to the free-agent market before ultimately deciding to return to San Jose on a one-year deal.This time there was never any doubt.”Obviously there were some teams calling, but I told my agent/brother let’s keep it quiet this year, I want to go back to San Jose,” Thornton said Monday. ”Obviously talking to you guys at the end of the year that’s no secret. I feel this team is just getting better and better. … Our window is always open it seems in San Jose, and it’s a good feeling.”Thornton signed a one-year, $5 million contract on his 39th birthday, taking a $3 million pay cut from the previous year to help make sure the Sharks have the room to add other top players. Thornton had been willing to take even less had John Tavares decided to take San Jose’s offer instead of signing a $77 million, seven-year deal with Toronto on Sunday.But Thornton still believes strongly in the group that general manager Doug Wilson, coach Peter DeBoer and owner Hasso Plattner have put together and feels the pieces are in place for that elusive Stanley Cup run.”It would have been nice to get Johnny, but I think if you look at our team still, Doug and Hasso and Pete, they’ve allowed us to compete every year http://www.islandersfanproshop.com/authentic-nick-leddy-jersey , and I think there’s no difference again this year,” Thornton said. ”We’re going to compete for a Cup. But yeah, I was going to be flexible and will always try to help out the franchise in that way.”The Sharks also locked up restricted free agent forward Tomas Hertl with a $22.5 million, four-year deal on Monday that buys out the first two years of unrestricted free agency.Hertl took on a bigger role last season after Thornton went down with a season-ending right knee injury Jan. 23. Thornton had torn the ACL and MCL in his left knee the previous season but said he’s ahead of where he was at this point last summer and expects to be 100 percent at the start of training camp.Thornton started slowly last season while recovering from knee surgery but was back near his top form by the end of November. He had 11 goals and 15 assists in his final 28 games before the injury.”I’ve never seen anybody train like this. You look at his birth certificate and it says a number there. But he’s childlike when it comes for his passion and love for the game,” Wilson said. ”He’s had so much time now and was so close to playing that I t6hink he’ll come back way ahead of where he was last year.”Thornton has been the face of the franchise in San Jose since arriving in 2005, helping the team reach three Western Conference finals and one trip the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.He ranks 12th in NHL history with 1,030 assists and is 16th with 1,427 points. With seven more games, Thornton will become the 19th player to reach the 1,500-game mark for a career.The 24-year-old Hertl is just coming into his own after being slowed by knee injuries early in his career. He had a career-high 22 goals to go along with 44 assists this past season and was strong on both ends of the ice.Hertl was even better come playoff time with six goals and three assists in 10 games. He also won 57.7 percent of his faceoffs. The Sharks are counting on more of that kind of play in the future.”I just think his best hockey is ahead of him,” Wilson said. ”He truly wants to be a great player. Watching him in the playoffs this year, I think everybody saw him take that step that not only we expected but he expected of himself.”The Sharks still have one more restricted free agent to sign in forward Chris Tierney.—AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this story— DENVER (AP) Fair warning to the rest of the league: As fast and young as the Colorado Avalanche were this season Womens Wayne Simmonds Jersey , general manager Joe Sakic vows to make them even faster and younger.It’s become a full-speed-ahead priority.That blend of quickness, youth and skill boosted the Avalanche from the bottom of the league a year ago to a playoff contender this season. Having an MVP candidate like Nathan MacKinnon leading the charge certainly didn’t hurt, either.”We love the way we play the game,” Sakic said a day after the Avs were eliminated from the first round of the postseason by top-seeded Nashville in six games. ”It’s fast. It’s entertaining. It’s exciting.”Few expected this kind of run from a Colorado team that had just 48 points in 2016-17. But youthful energy kept the Avalanche in the playoff chase until the end, where they earned the final postseason spot on the last day of the regular season. Their 47-point turnaround from a season ago matches the fourth-highest year-to-year improvement over a full season in NHL history, according to the team.That bodes well. That is, once the sting of losing to the Predators fades.”We’re going to stay the course and let this team grow because they deserve it,” said Sakic, whose squad was one of the league’s youngest with an average age of 25.8. ”We’re going to stay young and in the next couple of years may even get younger. If we can, even try to get a little bit quicker and faster out there.”The Avalanche fully bought into the message of even-keeled coach Jared Bednar, who will be around two more seasons after Sakic announced Monday he recently agreed to a one-year extension with the former American Hockey League coach.”It’s a cool story that we went from last to the playoffs, but we’re trying to win a Cup http://www.senatorsshoponline.com/authentic-bobby-ryan-jersey ,” said the 22-year-old MacKinnon, who had 39 goals and 58 assists in the regular season. ”We showed a lot of fight this season. … Hopefully we can use some of that next season.”Things to know about a season in which the Avalanche returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014:HOME COOKIN’The Avalanche returned the aura back to the Pepsi Center. They won 28 games at home in the regular season, which tied the franchise record held by the 2000-01 squad that captured the Stanley Cup crown.”To see the way this Colorado crowd and the city responded to us was great,” defenseman Erik Johnson said.YOUTHFUL SPIRITThe future is certainly bright with a total of 11 rookies dressing this season. Even more, nine players got their first taste of the postseason.”It was great to get into the playoffs just to feel the different level, where you’ve got to go emotionally and intensity goes up,” Sakic said. ”We can’t take it for granted.”MAC’S OFFENSIVE ATTACKMacKinnon had a season worthy of consideration for the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He led the league in home scoring this season with 67 points (27 goals, 40 assists). That’s tied with Sakic (2000-01) for most in Avalanche history.In addition, MacKinnon’s 284 shots were also the most by an Avalanche player since Sakic (332, `00-01).He was frequently paired with captain Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, giving them one of the league’s most potent lines.”If you want to bring someone to their first hockey game, you want to bring them to watch Nathan MacKinnon Chris Wideman Jersey ,” Sakic said.HANGIN’ TENColorado had a 10-game winning streak that began with an overtime win over Toronto on Dec. 29 and ended Jan. 23 with a loss at Montreal. It was the second-longest streak in team history.”Great group, fun to coach,” Bednar said. ”It was a good season, a fun season – especially for a lot of our guys who went through probably their worst season, myself included, last year to respond and have a season like this.”INJURIESColorado dealt with its fair share of injuries, including the loss of starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Johnson to knee injuries before the playoffs. In the postseason, backup Jonathan Bernier went down. The Avs had to rely on third-stringer Andrew Hammond, who was acquired as part of the three-team trade in November that sent Matt Duchene to Ottawa.”I know we’ll come back stronger,” Landeskog said. ”I’m proud of this team.”—
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