By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
After 15 years in San Jose, center Joe Thornton is finally coming back to the Eastern Conference. And it will be with the Toronto Maple Leafs by way of a one-year contract worth $700,000.
The move to Toronto represents a homecoming of sorts for the 41-year-old Thornton, who is from London, Ont., and found himself on the open market after scoring seven goals and 31 points in 70 games.
It's also the next (and perhaps final) stop in Thornton's quest to finally win a Stanley Cup, which is something he's never been able to do in his 22-year career, only getting to one Stanley Cup Final during his time with the Sharks (2016). And though he's been devoted to the Sharks since moving there from Boston in 2005, Thornton did express some frustration with the Sharks not moving him to a contender this past trade deadline.
"I wanted a shot, you know?" Thornton said. "Believe it or not. I’ve been hunting this thing down for 22 years, so I wanted another shot at it. I wanted to get something [for the Sharks] in return. It just didn’t work out.
"I was willing to go somewhere, and try to win my first Stanley Cup. I’ve been dreaming about that ever since I can remember and it just didn’t come to fruition, for whatever reason."
The 6-foot-4 Thornton recently returned to Davos (Swiss League), where he played during the 2004-05 and 2012 NHL lockouts, in preparation for the upcoming 2020-21 season.
In Toronto, Thornton slots behind a one-two center punch featuring Auston Matthews and John Tavares, and with the hope that he can provide some additional veteran know-how for a Leafs team that's still looking to escape the first round.
Thornton, of course, spent the first seven and a half seasons of his NHL career with Boston, earning three All-Star nominations, and a fourth-place Hart Trophy finish in 2003. Thornton also served as the Black and Gold's captain from 2002 until his exit.
Thornton's 1,636 games are the ninth-most in league history, while his 1,509 points are the 14th-most in NHL history.