For just the second time in 16 seasons, the San Jose Sharks aren’t participating in the NHL playoffs. One of the players who played a big part in the Sharks’ extended run as a contender is center Joe Thornton.
Jumbo Joe has recorded 1,055 points in 1,104 games over 15 seasons with San Jose. He is a fan-favorite who led the Sharks to three Western Conference Finals, and a Stanley Cup Final appearance since being traded to San Jose from the Boston Bruins.
The 41-year-old can still produce. He mostly played third-line minutes last season and put up 31 points in 70 games. Thornton will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, giving general manager Doug Wilson a tough decision on whether to bring back Jumbo for one more year.
Gavin Daly of The Hockey Writers wrote a piece on if the Sharks should bring Thornton back for the 2020-21 season, and had this say:
However, with just under $15 million to spend, it may be a case of Labanc or Thornton, especially if Labanc wants the sort of raise he deserved last offseason, which is likely double the $1 million he is currently earning. Labanc is younger, with more of an upside for the Sharks than Thornton.
Thornton made $2 million last season, and would more than likely have to take a pay cut if he wants to be back with San Jose. The 23-year-old Labanc signed a team-friendly deal and is in line for a raise on the $1 million he made last year. Re-signing Labanc is imperative for Wilson, who needs to keep some younger and cheaper players on the roster which features four players combining to take up more than $34 million of cap space.
As Daly points out, Wilson isn’t afraid to let beloved players walk away. He elected not to bring back former captain Joe Pavelski, so the decision not to bring back Thornton might not be as difficult for Wilson as we think.
Although the Sharks controlled the play with Thornton on the ice (52.9 CF%), the team did give up 21 more even-strength goals than they scored when Jumbo was taking a shift. Still, he can provide value as a third-line centerman, who can contribute on the second power play unit.
Do you think San Jose should bring Thornton back? If so, how much do you think his contract should be worth on a one-year deal?