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Joe Thornton Tied to Maple Leafs in Free Agency Talk

Joe Thornton is being tied to the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL free agency talk. How realistic is this option for both sides?

James Mirtle of The Athletic is following up on speculation that the Toronto Maple Leafs and veteran center Joe Thornton may be tied together in talks and that the long-time Sharks forward could make a jump to the Leafs. This comes after reports on the Steve Dangle Podcast by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston that the two sides have had mutual interest.

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Mirtle writes:

These talks are in the beginning stages. It sounds like there’s some mutual interest. The Leafs, as they did during free agency in 2017, have let Thornton know he’s wanted. And Thornton is listening, from his offseason home in Switzerland, where he’s been training with a top-league club.

This is not to say that Thornton is ready to make a decision on his NHL future. The last comments from the veteran is that he’s going to take his time, he might play in Switzerland and his status for the 2020-21 season is still uncertain. But, Mirtle says the Leafs are aggressively pursuing Thornton, to the point where some Leafs players have reached out to him personally.

If the 41-year-old wants to return, he could go back to the Sharks or he could sign on for close to league minimum in a location like Toronto where they are valuing low-cost deals with veterans. If he considers the Maple Leafs a contender, there could be more than just speculation to all of this.

What Does Thornton Have Left in the Tank?

Thornton scored just seven goals and 31 points in 2019-20. This represents his lowest point total since his 1997-98 rookie season. He would play a more limited role in Toronto considering the depth they have at forward but how much would he contribute?

Maybe it doesn’t matter, at least not all that much. If the Leafs use him sparingly and bring him in as a locker room leader the partnership could make sense for other reasons. Thornton was frustrated when the Sharks didn’t move him at last season’s trade deadline. He might be trying to get one more good season in with a team that could help him get close to a Stanley Cup that has eluded him.

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