Joe Thornton will not return to the Toronto Maple Leafs next season. The reason is because the Florida Panthers have decided they’d prefer to have his veteran leadership as part of their roster and have inked the veteran to a one-year contract. Panthers GM Bill Zito noted on their official website: “With more than 1,600 games played in the NHL, Joe will bring a wealth of experience to our locker room and lineup. He added, “His drive to succeed is unmistakable and we are thrilled that he chose to sign with our club and that he believes in what we are building here in South Florida.”
Related: Jagr Shares Troubling Story About Why He’s Still Playing Hockey
The deal is for the league minimum: $750,000. There are no bonus and no incentives worked into the deal.
Seemingly signing with the Panthers because of the location and their potential of being a contender this season, Thornton must believe Florida gives him a decent chance to win a Stanley Cup. They were a strong regular season team this past season and they’ve added some key pieces to try and contend again.
Now 42, Thornton has appeared in 1,680 games over an NHL career that has seen him spend time with the Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs. This is the second-most games played of any active NHL player and is the sixth-most games played all time.
His season didn’t go as he would have liked last year and the Maple Leafs ended things in a disappointing fashion against the Montreal Canadiens, but he’s stayed in shape this offseason looking to give it another run. He’s scored 1,529 points over his career and while his game has slowed considerably, he’s still got a great hockey mind, can play a depth role and potentially contribute on the team’s power play.
As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press interestingly points out, wSam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov had yet to turn two, Jonathan Huberdeau was four and Spencer Knight was almost four years from being born when Thornton was drafted into the NHL.
Next: Where Sam Reinhart Fits After Signing New 3-Year Deal with Panthers
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