Joe Thornton says he plans on returning for 22nd NHL season, jokes he has 'nothing else going on'
The longtime Sharks center sounds like he plans on being back in San Jose next year
Joe Thornton isn't ready to call it quits just yet.
Thornton, who is about to turn 40, met with the media ahead of the NHL Awards in Vegas this week and confirmed that he wants to return for a 22nd NHL season.
"We'll wait and see, but I'm thinking 5-10 [seasons] right now. "I got nothing else going on, so we'll see," Thornton (seemingly) joked when asked if he plans on returning.
But the longtime Sharks center seems serious about coming back, and it sounds like he plans on staying in San Jose.
"We'll talk. We'll sit down," Thornton said. "I'll sit down with [owner Hasso Plattner] and [coach Peter DeBoer] and [general manager Doug Wilson] and figure something out. My body feels great, and it's going to be the first time in a long time I don't have to rehab in the summer, so I'm excited for that."
Thornton tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in 2017 and then tore the MCL in his right knee in 2018, forcing him to spend his last two offseasons recovering and rehabbing following major knee surgery. This summer, after finishing last season healthy, he'll have no such task.
But the veteran center is still without a contract, having just completed a one-year, $5 million dollar deal. It was the second-straight one-year deal that Thornton received from the Sharks, and Wilson has praised Thornton for his willingness to be flexible with his contract situation in order to stay with the team.
He may not only have to take another one-year deal if he wants to stick in San Jose, but he may have to accept below market value. The Sharks are currently in a bit of a cap crunch after Joe Pavelski, Timo Meier, and Gustav Nyquist.earlier this week and they have about $16 million in projected cap space with several key players on expiring contracts, including Thornton,
Still, Thornton sounds confident he'll be back for his 15th season with the Sharks next year.
Thornton, who was the top overall pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, is the NHL's active points leader (and 14th all-time) with 1,478. He's also eighth all-time in assists (1,065) and would pass Adam Oates for seventh on the list with 15 more helpers. He's a no-doubt lock for the Hall of Fame whenever he chooses to hang up the skates.
The center has been a star in San Jose for more than a decade and even served as captain from 2010-2014 before surrendering the 'C' to Pavelski. Last season, Thornton played more of a depth role but was still a big piece, picking up 16 goals and 51 points while averaging 15:33 of TOI per game. He was strong for the Sharks during their postseason run, racking up 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 19 games before San Jose was eliminated in the Western Conference Final.
Thornton is still in search of his first-ever Stanley Cup title and that likely feeds his hunger to continue playing, especially with the Sharks poised to contend once again next season. Thornton has made one Stanley Cup Final appearance, with the Sharks finishing as runner-up to the Penguins in 2016.
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