Toronto Maple Leafs: Should they sign 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 and free-agent centre Joe Thornton appear to be circling each other for a potential union that provides intrigue but does it make sense?

It has been a busy off-season already for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as a flurry of activity has changed the makeup of the team.  The team has made changes throughout the lineup, in an effort to become tougher to play against and more balanced.

After bringing in Wayne Simmonds, Zach Bogosian, TJ Brodie and Travis Boyd through trade, the Maple Leafs also acquired Joey Anderson in a trade with the New Jersey Devils that saw Andreas Johnsson shipped out.

Now it looks as though there is interest in bringing a literal greybeard in Joe Thornton which was first reported by James Mirtle of the Athletic but has been talked about on multiple occasions by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.  Jumbo Joe is a free agent after 15 seasons in San Jose.  Would bringing in his veteran leadership be a good thing for the Maple Leafs?  Let’s explore.

The argument for the Leafs to sign Thornton

Thornton has registered over 1500 points in his 23-year career, but there would be no expectation of him scoring at that pace with the Leafs.  The main reason to bring Thornton in is his veteran leadership in a locker room that still has a lot of youth.

This is not to say Thornton cannot still play, he recorded just 31 points last season but shipped in 51 the season before.  He has a career 54.3% faceoff percentage, although that dipped under 50% for the first time last season.

At this point in his career, Thornton probably does not have many suitors so he would come cheap.  It appears the Sharks are not all that interested in bringing him back for the 16th season.

SIgning Thornton for something like $1 million makes trading Alexander Kerfoot more palatable as Jumbo Joe could take his third-line centre spot.  Alternatively, they could keep Kerfoot and move him to his more natural wing position.

They would still have to free up some cash somewhere but the salary cap situation is improving with the Johnsson and Kapanen deals.

The argument against the Toronto Maple Leafs signing Thornton

Thornton has over 1600 regular-season games on his body and is 41 years-old.  Those are not signs that would point to positive trends in the future.  It is highly unlikely that the Leafs could even expect half a point per game from Thornton at this point.

His playoff resume is just OK – nothing to be too excited about.  He does not bring a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree with him.  Thornton has made one Cup Finals (in 2015-16) and most recently helped the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals in 2018-19

Bringing him in could block the progress of younger forwards looking to make an impact with the big club.  His arrival (and surprising durability) may keep a guy like Pierre Engvall from playing.  Mind you, if that is your biggest reason to not sign him, you are kidding yourself on Engvall.

Ultimately, I think it would be a pretty low-risk move for the Leafs to see what they can get out of Thornton to help shore up the bottom six in the twilight of his career.

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What do you think of the Joe Thornton to Toronto rumours?  Do you think this would be a good move for the Maple Leafs or not?  Let us know in the comments below.