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Panthers Sign Thornton to One-Year Deal

Joe Thornton is coming back to the NHL for one more year, signing a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Sorry, Davos. Jumbo Joe is staying in North America.

The 42-year-old is officially coming back for what may be his final pursuit of that elusive Stanley Cup, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers on Friday morning worth a league-minimum $750,000. 

Thornton, who is now entering his 24th NHL season, will need to suit up in just 20 games in 2021-22 to reach the 1,700 games played milestone. 

After defying Father Time for so many years, Thornton showed signs of his age for large stretches of the 2021 season. In 44 games with the Maple Leafs, Thornton racked up a decent 20 points in 44 games, a reasonable total before factoring in both his ever-present role on one of Toronto's power-play units and the heaps of ice time he spent alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner at even-strength.

With those types of minutes, it's not unreasonable to expect a tad more. 

Which isn't to say Thornton was bad last season, per se. 

All in all, Jumbo Joe was an effective depth winger pulling down league-minimum wages who occasionally flashed some of the skill that once made him the greatest playmaker in the sport. He still has value. 

But expectations should be limited for Thornton at this stage in his career. The veteran is approaching his mid-40's, after all. And despite his advanced age, and a rib injury that kept him sidelined for 10 games, the Maple Leafs' medical staff still allowed Thornton to suit up in practically every game he could, opting against using the COVID-necessitated taxi squad to give his legs, which happen to include a few torn ACLs, the occasional night off. 

Thornton even hit the ice for both halves of his team's back-to-backs on numerous occasions despite the Leafs holding a sizeable points lead in the standings. 

While the greybeard did look slower and more susceptible to the rigours of an NHL season in 2021, it's not as if his usage did him any favours, either. 

At the core of it all, though, the Panthers are in a win-win position, getting perhaps the best lockerroom asset in the entire league who can still contribute at a big-league level, and are paying him as little as they are legally allowed to do it.

That's some tidy business in anyone's book. 



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