Couture signed an eight-year contract extension with the Sharks on July 1, the first day he was eligible to do so. The 29-year-old forward has relished his time with the Sharks, whom he knew little about before they drafted him.
“It’s nice,” he said. “For me, San Jose has always been a comfortable place to play. It’s a place I’ve grown to love. Before I was drafted there I didn’t know too much about the Sharks. But we’ve been competitive every year. I think we’re going to stay competitive in the future. We’ve got a lot of very good players locked up for a long time. It was a very easy decision.”
When forward John Tavares was considering his destination, Couture said he did his best to convince Tavares to play in San Jose after general manager Doug Wilson told him Tavares was considering the Sharks.
“I played against him all the way growing up and in the [Ontario Hockey League] and (we) played together on the (Team Canada) World Cup team, so I know him a little bit,” Couture said of Tavares, who signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 1 after nine seasons with the New York Islanders. “I just told him how awesome of a place it is in San Jose and how much fun we have. It’s pretty simple.
“The Sharks are pretty well-known around the League as being a place where a lot of players want to play. We’ve been in the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs 13 of the last 14 seasons. You give yourself an opportunity to win, and moving forward we’re going to have a good team here.”
They lost out on Tavares, but the Sharks were able to re-sign forward Evander Kane to a seven-year contract May 24. Kane, who was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26, could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He had success in San Jose with 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 17 games and five points (four goals, one assist) in nine playoff games. Couture said Kane was an immediate fit in the dressing room.
“There’s a lot of different characters I guess you could say in our room, whether it’s Brent Burns or Jumbo (Joe Thornton),” Couture said. “Nobody judges. What’s happened in his past, you kind of rub it off and just judge him by what he brings to the rink with the Sharks. I think he felt welcomed and he was great for us. … He played well down the stretch and in the playoffs. We’re happy to have him.”
Couture said he was happy to have Thornton, 39, sign a one-year contract July 2 for a 22nd NHL season and 14th with the Sharks. Thornton was limited to 47 games last season after he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee against the Winnipeg Jets on Jan. 23, but he was productive until the season-ending injury with 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists).
“He’s a leader on our team. He’s one of the vocal guys in the room and it rubs off on everyone,” Couture said. “You see how much fun he’s having playing the game in his 21st season [last] year. He’s still one of the first guys getting to the rink and one of the last guys leaving.”