SAN JOSE – Raffi Torres, set to become an unrestricted free agent, would like to return to the San Jose Sharks he said on Thursday after the team gathered a final time.
“It’s a first-class organization,” Torres said. “I knew that after the first phone call [GM] Doug [Wilson] made to me, telling me that I was traded here.
“It’s not going to be hard to make a decision to stay here. They know I want to. It’s a great group of guys in here, starting with Joe [Thornton] and right down to [Logan Couture], and the goaltending. It’s just a good group of guys, and it’d be a good place to win here.”
Torres, 31, was acquired at the trade deadline from Phoenix, and had two goals and four assists in 11 games. In the playoffs, Torres scored in overtime in Game 2 of San Jose’s first round sweep of the Canucks.
His playoff run was cut short, of course, when the league suspended him for his hit to the head of Jarret Stoll in Game 1 of the second round in Los Angeles. Despite Stoll’s shoulder being the principle point of contract and Stoll putting himself in a vulnerable position, the league decided to suspend Torres for the remainder of the series based primarily on his previous offenses. The Sharks lost in seven games.
Wilson vehemently disagreed with the punishment, and after making a detailed statement, earned his club a $100,000 fine.
Torres going public with his desire to remain in the Bay Area was pleasing to the general manager.
“When players like that say they want to be back, that means an awful lot to us,” Wilson said.
Torres integrated himself into the team right away, head coach Todd McLellan said.
“I’m encouraged that he’d like to be back,” he said. “He’s a veteran player that plays the game hard and fast. I thought he fit in extremely well into our locker room quickly, which isn’t easy to do, and I believe we missed him when we needed him the most in that final series.”
Torres’ teammates also seem to be on board with him signing a new contract with the Sharks.
“That would be great,” Patrick Marleau said. “He obviously brings an element to the game that the fans enjoy, as players we enjoy. It’s nice having him in the same jersey. He brings a physical presence, and some timely goals.”
Joe Thornton said: “He plays quick. He plays with a little bit of an edge. He can score big goals. We hope he comes back. He’s a great player. He’s a great addition that Doug made.”
The Sharks missed Torres after the suspension. One of the strengths of San Jose’s team down the stretch and in the first round win over Vancouver was the ability to roll four lines – three of which could score regularly. Torres seemed to find chemistry on the third line with Joe Pavelski, and when Marty Havlat was unable to play due to a pulled groin, Torres fit in well with Couture and Marleau in the series against Vancouver.
With their forward group shorthanded for most of the series against the Kings, Pavelski moved back up to a line with Marleau and Couture for the remainder of the Kings’ series. San Jose’s depth suffered.
“It hurt us. There’s no doubt about it, but excuses aren’t going to make it any better,” McLellan said.
Torres, who didn’t speak publically following the suspension, reflected on the hit that ended his season on Thursday. It was the second time in two seasons his playoff run was cut short, as he hit Chicago’s Marian Hossa with a high elbow in the first round in 2012 while with the Coyotes. That play earned him a 25-game ban, later reduced to 21.
“It’s tough,” Torres said. “If somebody else throws that hit, then do they get suspended? Who knows? I don’t want to get into that game, because it’ll get me nowhere.”
He doesn’t expect to alter the way he plays. Stoll, a friend of Torres who was even in his wedding party, referred to the hit as “a hockey play.”
“I still feel like it was a clean hit. I didn’t do anything that I don’t think I’ll do again. Obviously, it’s tough when he’s kind of in a vulnerable position, but I feel like I did my best to stay within the guidelines,” Torres said.
“I went out there and played the game the way I know to play the game. Unfortunately, that’s what came about it. But, ultimately, I’m not going to change my game. I play the game hard and try to keep it within the guidelines. We’ll see what the future brings.”
Indications are that Torres and the Sharks hope that future involves a black and teal sweater.
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Scott Gomez, also an unrestricted free agent-to-be, was non-committal when asked if he would like to return to the Sharks.
“There’s plenty of time for that in the future,” Gomez said, when asked if he could see himself returning to the Sharks. “I’m not really worried about that right now. I’m still getting over the loss. I’ll take a couple more days. Whatever the future holds, this is a great organization and great group of guys, and a team that can still win. It’s still right there. As far as me, we’ll worry about that later.”
Scott Hannan, Tim Kennedy, Bracken Kearns, Thomas Greiss and Alex Stalock are other notable unrestricted free agents for the Sharks.