The Toronto Maple Leafs finally put pen to paper on a one-year deal with Joe Thornton bringing in a player with only one goal on his mind.
Just like Patrick Marleau did a few years ago, Thornton decided it was time to make the tough move to continue his pursuit of the Stanley Cup that has eluded him his entire career. There was apparently an opportunity for Thornton to join Marleau back in 2017 but the veteran opted to remain with the San Jose Sharks.
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Unlike Marleau, the 41-year-old is coming with a different set of expectations considering they are different players. Marleau was a great fit because of his skating and scoring ability while Thornton has the vision, ability to protect and size.
One thing Thornton will bring is having an impact on the young Leafs players who at times, need a strong voice to speak up when the time calls for it. Right now, it’s tough to say where exactly the former Hart Trophy winner fits but there is a chance it could be as the third line centre.
At $700,000 it’s tough to find an issue with this deal other than Thornton’s age and he’s not exactly the fastest player either. But to get him to join a room that saw the benefits of Jason Spezza‘s addition and also brought in Wayne Simmonds, they all bring tangibles that the team was lacking.
Considering Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander are still 24 and younger, there is a lot left for them to learn still. You see how the players on the Sharks have reacted to Thornton’s departure, he a profound impact on their careers and you can bet the young Leafs can’t wait to benefit from the same tutelage.
This is a player who was disappointed by not getting a chance to be moved to a contender at the trade deadline. He knows the window to win a Cup if shrinking and it’s not getting any easier as the Leaf shave figured out the past couple of years.
Toronto also needs to ensure they have enough depth to prepare for the rigorous demands for the NHL trying to get an 82-game season done with a delayed start. This could mean far more back-to-backs which won’t be ideal for players like Thornton or Spezza. This is why getting them at league minimum allows for some flexibility.
With all the moves made so far, Toronto is banking on small but effective moves to getting them in a better position to compete because if they falter again, then it will prove that more drastic moves will have to be done.
What are your thoughts on Thornton signing with the Leafs? Can he still be a difference-maker? Let us know in the comments below.