San Jose Sharks
The Sharks signed Thornton to a three-year contract extension
worth $21.6 million on Sunday, keeping the 2006 MVP in San Jose
Thornton is the NHL's leading scorer over the last two seasons
with the Sharks, who acquired him from Boston on Nov. 30, 2005. He
won the 2006 scoring title with 125 points and finished second last
season with 114, dominating the Western Conference with his
peerless playmaking skills.
He still has one season at $6.67 million left on the extension
he signed with the Bruins after the NHL lockout. But when he sat
down with his agent-brother, John, to decide his long-term future,
Thornton only saw himself on the California coast.
"There's no question I was going to re-sign there," Thornton
said from his summer home in St. Thomas, Ontario. "It's just a
perfect fit for me. The ownership wants a winner, and we've got a
great young team there. I'm looking forward to being there for a
General manager Doug Wilson said Thornton didn't squeeze every
last penny out of the Sharks because he wanted the club to have
enough financial flexibility to keep its roster together. Wilson is
pursuing a contract extension for captain Patrick Marleau,
Thornton's friend and road roommate, and hoping to re-sign
defenseman Scott Hannan.
There's no question I was going to re-sign there. It's just a perfect fit for me. The ownership wants a winner, and we've got a great young team there. I'm looking forward to being there for a long time.
"I think we're all really ecstatic that it went so easy," said
Thornton, whose 28th birthday is Monday. "I love playing there. I
love the people in the organization. ... As far as I'm concerned,
that's the place I want to play."
The four-time All-Star had 22 goals and 92 assists last season,
trailing only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in the NHL scoring race.
Thornton became the third player in league history with
back-to-back 90-assist seasons, joining Wayne Gretzky and
Thornton led San Jose into the second round of the Western
Conference playoffs, where the Sharks lost to the Red Wings in six
games. But Thornton erased any lingering reputation as a postseason
underachiever, scoring 11 points in 11 games despite constant
pressure from the top defensemen on Nashville and Detroit.
Keeping Thornton in San Jose with a long-term deal stretching
through the prime of his career was a top priority for Wilson, who
promised to fine-tune his roster after the NHL's fifth-best
regular-season team flopped with three straight losses in the
playoffs. Thornton's quick deal made everything easier, the GM
"We have pretty open communication, and Joe stepped up,"
Wilson said. "I certainly think he gave us a break to be able to
do this in the [contract] term on the condition of being able to
keep a group of the other players. ... These players are all just
evolving into their primes. They've had some successes, and they've
had continuity, and they want to keep it together."
Wilson signed defenseman Craig Rivet to a four-year, $14 million
deal last month, keeping the veteran he acquired from Montreal near
last season's trade deadline. Like Thornton, Rivet prefers the
laid-back lifestyle for players in Northern California over the
pressure from media and fans in traditional hockey markets.
Thornton was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1997 in Boston,
where he became a captain but also received the bulk of public
blame for the Bruins' failures.
The trade to San Jose caught Thornton by surprise because he had
signed a three-year extension in Boston a few months earlier. Mike
O'Connell, who became the first NHL general manager ever to trade a
player during his MVP season, was fired less than four months
"I've always signed three-year contracts, and I just think with
the one year remaining [on the Boston deal], it's a perfect fit
until I'm 32, and then I think I'll probably sign with the Sharks
again," Thornton said.
Thornton doesn't shoulder all the responsibility for victory in
San Jose, which is a relief to the 6-foot-4 forward. Marleau caught
the bulk of criticism in May when he went scoreless in the Sharks'
six-game loss to Detroit, but Thornton believes San Jose's 1-2
punch at center will be formidable for many years to come.
"We all want to stay together," Thornton said. "We feel that
we're getting into our primes of our careers, me and Patty
especially. We really think this is going to be the pinnacle of our
careers coming in the next four or five years. He wants to play
with me, and I want to play with him. Hopefully something gets