Boston Bruins

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 1: Joe Thornton #19 of the Boston Bruins is introduced during the NHL All-Star SuperSkills competition at the Office Depot Center on February 1, 2003 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images/NHLI)

By Ty Anderson,

Believe it or not, the Joe Thornton trade is now 15 years old.

It was on this date a decade and a half ago that the Boston Bruins sent their captain to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forwards Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm and defenseman Brad Stuart. That was it. Not a single first-round pick or prospect came the Bruins’ way. We all know how it ended, too: Thornton went on to win the NHL scoring title and Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, while the Bruins bottomed out and truly began their rebuild.

As we all know, it all worked out in the end. Thornton embarked on a 15-year Sharks career that included zero Stanley Cup championships and just one appearance in a Stanley Cup Final (2016), and is now trying to end his drought as a gray-bearded Maple Leaf, and the Bruins won a championship in 2011 and have been to two more since.

But what did the Bruins have to show for their return?

Well, neither Primeau nor Stuart proved to be long for Boston. Finishing out the 2005-06 season with the Bruins, the duo found themselves flipped to Calgary as Boston sold off pieces approaching the 2007 trade deadline.

The Bruins made the return count, too, obtaining Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference from the Flames.

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Ference proved to be a key contributor of the Boston backend, appearing in 373 games with the Bruins and another 69 postseason tilts during his seven-season run with the Black and Gold. His 69 postseason appearances are the seventh-most among all Boston defensemen since 1980, and his 16 even-strength points over that span rank sixth among that group of 93 skaters.

Ference also scored the game-winning goal in the B’s Game 6 victory over the Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, and finished that 25-game postseason run with the fourth-highest total time on ice (515:18), and third-most even-strength action (439:00). He was also one of nine Bruins to have a plus-minus of plus-10 or greater.

VANCOUVER, BC – JUNE 15: Andrew Ference #21 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with the Stanley Cup in the locker room after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 15, 2011. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Ference ultimately left the Bruins as a free agent after the 2013 season, and retired from hockey in 2017.

Kobasew, meanwhile, carved out a solid role as a middle-six contributor for the Bruins from 2007 through 2009, and scored a career-best 21 goals and 42 points for the Bruins in 2008-09. Kobasew followed that up with a three-goal, six-point in 11 games playoff line, but found himself the victim of an early-season shake-up after the Bruins got off to a slow start.

Sent to Minnesota, Kobasew netted the Bruins depth forward Craig Weller, prospect Alex Fallstrom, and a 2011 second-round draft pick (which the Bruins to select Alexander Khokhlachev) from the Wild. Fallstrom and Khokhlachev failed to pan out, of course, but the Bruins successfully flipped Weller (along with Byron Bitz and a 2010 second-round pick) to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and NCAA prospect defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

And much like Ference, Seidenberg proved to be exactly what the Bruins needed behind Zdeno Chara on their backend.

BOSTON, MA – NOVEMBER 14: Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden on November 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

A fearless shot-blocking defender — and one the Bruins were familiar with thanks to his effort against Boston as a member of the Hurricanes in the 2009 postseason — Seidenberg immediately thrived with the Bruins. An injury took him out of the equation for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but in 2011, with Chara, the duo proved to be an absolute nightmare.

On the ice for a playoff-high 690:49 of time on ice, Seidenberg also added a goal, 10 assists, and plus-12 rating on the way to a Cup. One of Boston’s most underrated pieces throughout that run, Seidenberg was a D-zone beast, and often set the tone with either board-rattling hits or a selfless approach to net-front coverage that saved the B’s from trouble.

With the Bruins for 401 games over seven seasons, Seidenberg was bought out by the Bruins in 2016 and finished his career with two seasons in New York as a member of the Islanders.

While not a direct result of the Jumbo trade, the Bruins, led by Peter Chiarelli after he replaced Mike O’Connell (and then Jeff Gorton), flipped assets obtained in the Thornton trade for two key defensemen that made 2011 possible.

Sturm, meanwhile, hung around the longest out of the original three-piece return for Thornton.

A fit with Patrice Bergeron on the rebuilding Bruins, Sturm hit the 20-goal mark four times with the Bruins, and totaled 106 goals and 193 points in his 302-game career with the Bruins. One of just 22 Bruins players to play at least 300 games with the team since 2000, Sturm’s 0.64 points per game actually rank as the ninth-best figure among that group. Sturm had his big moments during his Bruins tenure (and the rebirth of the team’s build back to relevancy), too, from the “this building is vibrating” goal in 2008’s Game 6 against Montreal and the 2010 Winter Classic winner.

Knee problems emerged as an issue for the German wing, however, and he was eventually shipped to Los Angeles for future considerations in Dec. 2010.

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There was also the non-direct impact of the Thornton trade that certainly developed before our eyes. Second-year NHLer Patrice Bergeron’s growth as a top-line center was accelerated. Chara was signed away from the division rival Senators as a free agent — and named captain prior to the 2006-07 season — to address the team’s leadership void. Trading Thornton also allowed the Bruins to truly embrace their tankjob and land Phil Kessel, who was spun into his own winding trade tree in 2009, with the No. 5 overall pick.

Whether or not the Bruins got enough for Thornton can be debated forever. If Brian Burke had it his way, it would be. But on its 15-year anniversary, the debate regarding the trade’s long-lasting value and impact on the Bruins seems like a long-buried debate.

Sidelines Podcast

Ty Anderson and Matt Dolloff talked about the Joe Thornton trade and much more in the newest episode of the Sidelines Podcast on Wednesday. Have a listen below.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.