Toronto Maple Leafs: Did they miss an opportunity with Joe Thornton?

Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Kevin Gravel #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Kevin Gravel #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs were reportedly interested in trading for Joe Thornton but couldn’t get a deal done but hopefully the door isn’t closed.

It was interesting to hear the Toronto Maple Leafs name connected to Joe Thornton at the trade deadline considering the team’s biggest need was on defence.

Some might say that trading for a 40-year-old whose best days are behind him would not have made sense for Toronto considering it doesn’t hurt to have some depth at centre considering the unlucky run the Leafs have had with injuries.

At the same time, they weren’t exactly in a position to spend assets on a centre but there’s no way he would have come close to the price the Pittsburgh Penguins played for Patrick Marleau.

Thornton’s comments after the trade deadline were tough to read considering he should have won a Stanley Cup at some point in his career.

"“I really don’t know,” Thornton said when asked why he wasn’t traded. “Obviously, the (interested) teams went in a different direction. That’s obviously what happened because I’m still here, and still a Shark, which I’m happy to be. But I wanted another shot at the Cup. Obviously, I’m getting a little bit older. It’s not my last hurrah, I still think I’ve got more years left. But as you get older you realize you only have so many shots at this thing. It would have been nice to at least have a chance.”“I wanted a shot, you know? Believe it or not,” Thornton added. “I’ve been hunting this thing down for 22 years, so I wanted another shot at it. I wanted to get something (for the Sharks) in return. It just didn’t work out. Back to the grind, and that’s how it is.”"

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You can get the sense that maybe this could signal the end of Thornton’s time in San Jose even though he has spent the past 15 seasons with the Sharks. It was surprising to see that the Boston Bruins weren’t more interested in him even for the nostalgia but if you are the Leafs, this could be something to consider in the off-season.

Elliotte Friedman reported in his latest 31 Thoughts column that the Leafs could be interested in signing Thornton and it would make sense for a couple of reasons. Not only would he be willing to take a discount to play in Toronto but the Leafs could use his leadership in a big way.

This team has come under fire for their work ethic and desire to compete every night and having Thornton would bring a voice that Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe hope the young players will respect. They did the same thing with Jason Spezza and made it a point to extend Jake Muzzin.

Dubas made it a point to say that getting players with the toughness, grit and leadership qualities aren’t easily found which is why they shouldn’t look past Thornton as a possibility.

It’s tough to say whether the Leafs missed an opportunity to acquire Thornton because there’s no way of knowing what the cost would have been. It also seems like Dubas didn’t want to make additions following their embarrassing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

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Do you think the Leafs missed an opportunity to acquire Thornton? Should they revisit the possibility in the off-season? Let us know in the comments below.