SJ Sharks report: Joe Thornton Signs with Toronto Maple Leafs

Former San Jose Shark Joe Thornton joins the Toronto Maple Leafs after more than 15 seasons with the Sharks. Thornton who makes his home in San Jose in the off season left for Toronto Friday to sign with the Leafs (file photo from mercurynews.com)

By Mary Walsh

Joe Thornton signed a one year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday. The contract is worth $700,000. Currently, Thornton is in Switzerland, playing with HC Davos of the Swiss National League. He expects to be ready to go when the NHL starts the new season.

Thornton’s absence will be noticeable in San Jose. Whether he wore the Captain’s C or not, Thornton was a leader in the Sharks dressing room. His play and his experience helped guide many younger players over many seasons. Fans came to consider him very much the face of the franchise, even if he was not drafted by San Jose. The Sharks team Twitter account said simply: “Going to log off for a bit. Brb. Maybe.”

Evander Kane tweeted : “Man I’m going to miss ya, but feel very fortunate to play with you and become great friends. So many fun memories in a short period of time. I’ll make sure to keep your seat next to me at the back of the plane vacant until you come back.”

Brent Burns tweeted: “Daaaamn…. going to miss a lot more then just laughing with this guy… ultimate teammate, friend and guy to learn from..@MapleLeafs got a great one coming!”

Joining the Maple Leafs is more than leaving San Jose for Thornton. A Toronto Sun headline today reads: “Greybeard Joe Thornton comes home to join Maple Leafs.” The Maple Leafs are iconic to the hockey world, but Thornton was born in London, Ontario, so Toronto means family and a return to his roots.

Thornton is the leader among active players in points with 1,509. He scored 1,055 of those with San Jose over 15 seasons. He won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy in 2006, for his performance during season that saw him traded from Boston to San Jose.

Patrick Marleau tweeted (by way of his wife’s account):

For more than two decades, Jumbo and I have been friends, with the vast majority of those years being teammates, too. I now consider him a brother. Toronto has gained a tremendous influence, and we will miss his presence here in San Jose. Good luck in TO! -PM

Marleau has just signed a one year contract with San Jose. Three seasons ago, he signed with Toronto and played two seasons there. According to NHL.com, Marleau said at that time that it was possible Thornton would sign with Toronto as well. Marleau had a three-year contract with Toronto, a deal that San Jose was unprepared to match.

One would think that the Sharks would have been willing to offer $700,000 for one more year of Thornton. Whether they did make that offer or not, Thornton’s absence signals significant changes to come in San Jose. After recent disappointments, that is probably a good thing in the long run. Whatever the future holds, the Sharks family will miss Jumbo Joe Thornton.

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