With many questions moving into the offseason, the biggest one for the San Jose Sharks is whether or not to bring back long time fan-favorite Joe Thornton.
Without a doubt, Joe Thornton will go down as one of the greatest San Jose Sharks of all-time, if not the greatest. But at 40-years-old, father time is catching up to Jumbo, which begs the question whether or not his time in teal should come to an end.
Thornton is on an expiring contract making him an unrestricted free agent headed into this offseason. After various reports and interviews, it has become increasingly clear that he will sign a new contract and return next season.
Frankly, Jumbo might decide on his own that it is time to move on from the Sharks and sign a cheap short-term deal with a contender. But assuming he wants to stay, Doug Wilson is presented with a tough dilemma.
In the past, Wilson said San Jose always has a place for Thornton whether it be on the ice or in the organization. However, Thornton had the worst season of his career posting seven goals and 24 assists over 70 games.
Is he truly worth the roster space?
The Sharks could get the same production from many players currently with the Barracuda. Moving on could send the Sharks into full rebuild mode and give Jumbo the opportunity to win a much-deserved cup with a different organization.
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Allegedly, Thornton was frustrated that the Sharks did not trade him to a contender at the trade deadline. A favor that Doug Wilson did fulfill for teammate Patrick Marleau, who landed with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.
Why bring back a player that would jump at the opportunity to join a more competitive roster?
The answer begins with Jumbo providing veteran knowledge and leadership to some of the younger players on the roster. Thornton played 1,636 games over 22 years, including 1,104 games with the Sharks.
He has hockey knowledge coming out of his ears and is one of the most respected players in league history.
After 15 seasons in San Jose it is hard to picture Thornton not wearing teal. Seeing him return would be universally exciting to hardcore Sharks fans. How could you not love Thornton after everything he has done for the team?
Bringing him back becomes a question of sentimental value and leadership or statistically better options at a much younger age. It is extremely difficult because there is no truly correct answer.
As a fan, it would be nice to see Thornton stay in teal until the day he retires. But as a fan of Joe Thornton, he should take the initiative to move on from San Jose.
The guy deserves a Cup more than any other player in the NHL, at least in my humble opinion. The reality is the window of him winning a Cup in San Jose is over — if he will truly hoist Lord Stanley it is going to have to be in a different uniform.
At the end of the day, his future is going to come down to conversations with Doug Wilson. But no matter where he ends up, expect Jumbo to be on the ice for the 2020-2021 season.