NHL

The deal is finally official, and Joe Thornton is returning to San Jose. The Sharks have announced that Thornton will be back on a one-year deal, and Kevin Kurz of The Athletic reports it will be worth $2M.

It never was in doubt, but now that it is official there is plenty of time to analyze the Sharks cap situation and see if there is room for another addition before the season begins. The team now projects to have just under $2.7M in cap space and could potentially add another forward on a relatively inexpensive deal. For months there has been belief that Patrick Marleau would be that cheap forward, but the two sides both explained recently that there is not going to be a reunion for the franchise icon.

Not so when it comes to Thornton however, who returns for his 22nd NHL season and 15th with San Jose. The 40-year old continues to amaze with his incredible playmaking ability and is coming off a 51-point season (in just 73 games) in 2018-19.

The Blackhawks re-signed restricted free agent winger Brendan Perlini to a one-year contract worth $874,125 on Friday. Evolving Hockey projected he’d sign a two-year deal with a $2,056,017 cap hit.

Perlini scored 12 goals and 15 points in 46 games with Chicago this past season after being acquired along with Dylan Strome in exchange for Nick Schmaltz last November. The 23-year-old Perlini’s play took off once the calendar hit March when he was given an expanded role to contribute with Alex DeBrincat and Strome.

In the imagination of Kyle Dubas, the general manager still foresees a Maple Leafs defence with Jake Gardiner taking a regular shift.

The reality, well, that gets in the way of his vision.

Dubas adores puck-moving, first-passing, quick-skating defencemen, which is why he would love to have Gardiner playing on a defence that includes Morgan Rielly, Tyson Barrie, Travis Dermott and Jake Muzzin. He believes that is the future and the present of the NHL game.

Problem, of course, is that the salary cap gets in the way and there is still winger Mitch Marner to be signed before his other ideas can be addressed.

The only way the Leafs could sign Gardiner — I’ve been told — was by signing Marner to a bridge deal, then inking the defenceman, which would mean the likely trading away of Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson. And still that might not be doable.

But the Leafs have wrestled all summer with finding a way to bring Gardiner back and it’s his first choice to remain a Leaf.

Do I believe this can happen? No.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent forward Pat Maroon to a one-year contract worth $900,000, vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois announced today.

“We’re very pleased to add Pat to our organization today,” BriseBois said. “He brings size and physicality to our group as well as significant playoff experience. We expect Pat’s to be a great addition to the roster.”

Maroon, 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, won the Stanley Cup last season as a member of his hometown St. Louis Blues. He skated in 74 regular season games with the Blues, recording 10 goals and 28 points to go along with 64 penalty minutes. Maroon also played in 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games, registering three goals and seven points while winning his first Stanley Cup.

If you look at lists of the best offseasons in the NHL, chances are, the Colorado Avalanche will be on most of them.

That’s with good reason, as this team seems ahead of the curve when it comes to making savvy improvements to their team, and they’re in an incredible position to be a force in the West, in large part thanks to bargain contracts for superstar Nathan MacKinnon, value in other parts of their roster, and young up-and-coming players who’ve maybe only shown a taste of what they can do in the NHL. Sometimes fans of teams make the error of merely seeing young players and assuming they’ll reach some imaginary potential that’s actually not there, yet with the Avs, such daydreaming doesn’t seem so far from reality.

All of that is great, but a significant chunk of the excitement around the Avalanche focuses on the future. What about the present, though? Are we sure that a team that squeaked into the playoffs the past two seasons can make it again, especially with a very different-looking roster?

Ultimately, head coach Jared Bednar is under a lot of pressure to make it all work.

The New York Islanders have taken another significant step toward breaking ground on a new home.

New York’s Empire State Development board approved the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Belmont Park facility, the Islanders announced Thursday.

Six members of the board voted unanimously in favor of the $1.3-billion arena and entertainment complex, according to Newsday’s Candice Ferrette and Jim Baumbach.

It was the final stage of ESD approval required for the plan. The next step before groundbreaking can begin is for the Franchise Oversight board to rubber-stamp the state’s environmental review. That’s expected in a matter of weeks, according to Ferrette and Baumbach.