Joe Thornton‘s quest for the Stanley Cup is taking him to Toronto.
The Maple Leafs announced on Friday evening that they have signed Thornton to a one-year contract that will pay him $700,000 for this season.
Prior to signing with the Maple Leafs, Thornton had spent the past 15 seasons as a member of the San Jose Sharks after the team acquired him from the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 season. During that time he won an MVP, was the best player on the team, one of the best players in the league, and did pretty much everything an NHL player could do except for one thing — get his name on the Stanley Cup.
When the Sharks shockingly fell out of contention during the 2019-20 season there was a belief that the Sharks would move him so he could chase a championship, but no trade was ever completed (something that disappointed Thornton at the time).
He now joins a Maple Leafs team that, while extremely talented at the top of the lineup, has not quite been able to make a name for itself in the postseason, having yet to win a playoff series with its current core. That includes the play-in round in this most recent postseason where they were eliminated in five games by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Maple Leafs have been busy this offseason trying to fix that and have made several changes to its roster. They traded Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh, allowed Tyson Barrie to leave in free agency, and then signed defenseman T.J. Brodie and forward Wayne Simmonds.
Thornton is the latest addition to the roster that is trying to find the right mix of players to break through in the playoffs.
At 41 Thornton is no longer the top-line, MVP-caliber player that he has been for most of his career but he should still have something to offer in a depth role. There is also almost no risk here for the Maple Leafs. He is still a strong playmaker, a good possession driver, and should be a great fit as a fourth-line center.