The San Jose Sharks have cleared quite a bit of cap room in the recent weeks, and with that are expected to be big players in free agency. They have been confirmed as one of the teams granted a sit down meeting with John Tavares this week, and are considered by some to be the front runner if the superstar center decides to leave the New York Islanders. Even if they do land a big fish on the open market though, the team is still expected to re-sign veteran center Joe Thornton for at least one more year. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic tweets that there is “no hurry” to get Thornton’s contract signed, and it will be dependent on what else the Sharks do. That’s a nice luxury for GM Doug Wilson to have, especially given the relatively thin market at center among free agents.
Thornton will turn 39 on July 2nd, is coming off another major knee injury, and played just 47 games last season. That said, when healthy he was still a dominant playmaking force and can still help any team in the league. If the Sharks can get him on a final team-friendly contract, he could become one of the most valuable assets around the league. Last season’s $8MM cap hit will surely come down significantly, and it will likely be just for one season if he stays in San Jose.
If Tavares or another free agent center comes to the Sharks over the next few days, Thornton would likely be pushed down the lineup. The team has plenty of options at center already, but is committed to improving their club this summer and taking another run at the Stanley Cup. Many believe Logan Couture will be extended quickly once he’s eligible next week, but the core of the team isn’t getting any younger. Joe Pavelski will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, while Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are both signed deep into their thirties. The time to win is now in San Jose, and Thornton clearly wants to be a part of it.