‘Jumbo’ is coming back to lead the band. Joe Thornton has signed a one-year contract with San Jose worth at least $6 million, giving the Sharks another crack at the Stanley Cup next season.
Though Thornton isn’t the Hart Trophy candidate he once was, the big center was still pretty effective as a 36-year-old this past season. He tallied 43 assists and had a 53.5 percent Corsi For percentage for the Sharks, while maintaining his outsized presence in the dressing room. He may no longer be the captain, but Thornton is well-known for keeping the Sharks on an even keel and putting things in perspective during ups and downs in the season.
At first blush, the price tag may sound like a lot for Thornton at this point, but San Jose is in a good spot. As GM Doug Wilson pointed out earlier today, the big-ticket extensions to defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goalie Martin Jones don’t kick in until 2018-19 – so for now, the Sharks are employing two of their most valuable players at below market rates.
Thornton has been a mainstay in San Jose since his controversial trade from Boston more than a decade ago. On top of all his other talents, the veteran pivot was still winning a majority of his faceoffs this past season, while seeing a solid forwards corps grow around him. Personality-wise, he’s still The Man. But he doesn’t have to carry the offensive burden these days and that makes the Sharks all the more difficult to deal with.
Clearly, the goal here is to take at least one more crack at bringing the Cup to San Jose. The Sharks came close in 2016 when they went to the final against Pittsburgh, but came out on the losing end. With Edmonton and Calgary rising in the Pacific, San Jose’s best window may be right now – until the next generation blooms. Cap-wise, this is certainly the last time Thornton can demand a big paycheque from the Sharks – though a Cup would be worth much more than another couple million anyway.
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