Stop if you’ve heard this story before, but Joe Thornton was trying to play on torn knee ligaments. The star center for the San Jose Sharks revealed Tuesday to Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News that he suffered a torn right ACL and MCL on January 23rd, but was attempting to return to the lineup during the playoffs. He’ll now shut down his rehab for the time being and be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season. Thornton suffered the same injury last season, but in his left knee.
Thornton also made it clear that he would love to return to the Sharks next season, and that he’d be willing to sign another one-year deal. The Sharks were recently eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights, ending their playoff run early once again. San Jose has had trouble finding any postseason success throughout Thornton’s time there, and they may decide it’s time to move on. Even on a one-year deal, there is little chance that Thornton will be earning $8MM again next season after an injury-ravaged season.
Once a perennial Hart Trophy candidate, the 38-year old Thornton has now had major knee injuries in back to back seasons and was limited to just 47 games in 2017-18. His production in those games was still excellent with 36 points, but it will be hard to rely on his health going forward. If the Sharks decide to go in a different direction—and with a pending unrestricted free agent in Evander Kane, and their sights perhaps set on another superstar center—they might decide it’s best if Thornton takes his talents elsewhere. Like Patrick Marleau last season, if Thornton decides he wants a multi-year contract, the Sharks may not be willing to match it.