Joe Thornton will not play for the San Jose Sharks next season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that they’ve signed Thornton to a one-year, $700,000 contract.
“Jumbo” has played for the San Jose Sharks for the last 15 seasons, amassing 1,055 points in 1,104 games in teal. He’s been with San Jose since November 30, 2005, when the Sharks acquired him from Boston for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart. Thornton’s franchise marks are second only to Patrick Marleau’s 1,102 points in 1,551 games. He also won the 2006 Hart Trophy and led San Jose to four Western Conference Finals and one Stanley Cup Final.
Marleau re-joined the Sharks for a third time last week, signing an identical one-year, $700,000 contract. He hoped his long-time teammate and fellow UFA would return with him.
“We’ve had a lot of years together, that would be a comforting thing for myself and I’m sure a lot of the other guys,” Marleau said in a Zoom call last week. “Not too sure what’s he going to decide to do. But would love to be able to be on the same club with him.”
As of yesterday, it appeared that the door hadn’t been closed on Thornton returning to the Sharks. Thornton, who’s getting ready for the 2020-21 NHL season with HC Davos, told Tages-Anzeiger: “I can still go back there, it’s all open.”
But now, Thornton has decided to move on, ironically following the same path as Marleau, who left San Jose for the first time three years ago to sign with Toronto.
Thornton grew up in nearby St. Thomas, Ontario and his parents still live there.
The 41-year-old has been open recently about his desire to pursue a Stanley Cup elsewhere in his waning years. San Jose was the third-worst team in the league this season, failing to qualify for even a 24-team playoff. During February’s Trade Deadline, Thornton betrayed distraught because the Sharks were unable to deal him to a contending club.
Is Toronto that team?
While the Maple Leafs feature young stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander, they’ve also lost in the first or qualifying round of the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.
It also remains to be seen what number Thornton will wear with the Maple Leafs. Veteran Jason Spezza currently sports Thornton’s traditional No. 19. Perhaps Jumbo will opt for his Team Canada No. 97.
As for San Jose, it’s the end of an era for a fanbase that’s getting very used to seeing franchise stars depart. In 2017, it was Marleau. Last summer, it was Joe Pavelski. But “Jumbo” was arguably the most popular of them all.
Thornton’s departure also leaves a gaping hole up the middle on the San Jose Sharks’ third line. Fredrik Handemark has been floated as a possible replacement.
More on this story as it develops.
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