Sharks sign Joe Thornton to 1-year deal

The contract is reportedly worth $5 million.

The San Jose Sharks announced today that they have re-signed center Joe Thornton to a one-year deal reportedly worth $5 million. The contract also includes a no-trade clause, per Kevin Kurz of The Athletic. It is rumored that he would have taken substantially less money had the Sharks been able to lure John Tavares to the Bay Area.

Thornton, who also turns 39-years-old today, played in 47 games last season, scoring 13 goals and assisting on 23 others. He missed the second half of the season and the Sharks’ entire playoff run due to a torn ACL and MCL suffered during a game against the Winnipeg Jets on January 23 this year. The injuries, which were to his right knee, were the same injuries he suffered to his left knee toward the end of the 2016-17 season.

Despite the ancient-by-professional-sports-standards forward’s prolific point-per-game pace last season, his 5v5 scoring rate has devolved to that of a middle-six forward. Thornton was still able to positively impact his team’s shot differential last season, though the chart shows clear decline during the course of the past three seasons.

One thing that doesn’t seem to be dwindling is Thornton’s ability to pass the puck and create chances for his teammates. He still contributes to a high percentage of the Sharks’ shots, and his volume of dangerous passes (from behind the net or across the ice in front of the net) saw a bit of a renaissance last season, though is still a quite a ways behind the greatness that was his 2015-16 season. Defensively, Thornton remains a strong contributor.

The re-signing leaves the Sharks with 20 players tentatively under contract and $13.8 million in cap space with restricted free agent Chris Tierney left to sign. RFA Dylan DeMelo has also apparently been speaking with the team about signing a new contract, as well, though the team did not tender him a qualifying offer before the free agency period began.

While it wouldn’t be wise to expect Thornton to score above 0.7 points per game again this year, it wouldn’t be against anyone’s best judgement to assume he can still contribute to the team’s shot differential. The problem for the Sharks is that Thornton is closer to resembling a middle-six center than he is the world-beater who could, at the peak of his powers, help the Sharks shut down opposing first lines.

Below is a snapshot of the center’s last three seasons in chart form. It sums up everything discussed above:

  • Third-line primary scoring rate at 5v5
  • Still-strong shot-differential influence
  • Defensive prowess/

For San Jose, and for Thornton, the hope this season will be that two knee surgeries in subsequent years doesn’t accelerate his on-ice aging process.