Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Earlier this weekend we saw Joe Thornton(notes) sign a three-year extension that will pay him an average of $7 million a season and comes with a no-movement clause.
Thornton's commitment to winning, his teammates, the organization and the several other things to which he was made out to be eternally devoted by Sharks management is exhibited by taking a slight pay cut to "help the team win."
Well, it's something like that.
Now granted, Thornton probably could have gotten some bonehead GM to shell out more than the $21 million over three years he accepted to stay in San Jose. But we wouldn't really know for sure, because he has never been an unrestricted free agent for any length of time. He sure wouldn't have let that happen now. He's very comfortable where he is.
Consider the amount of pressure Thornton faces in San Jose, even as the newly-minted captain. Yes, people care about the team more than they do in, say, Phoenix or Miami, but Northern California isn't exactly a pressure cooker where wins are demanded by media and public alike.
There is little doubt that Thornton, along with Marleau and Heatley and Boyle and every other player on the Sharks, would love to win a Stanley Cup, but no one outside the organization is leaning on him to perform. He'll keep earning praise for his stellar regular seasons - 20 goals and at least 70 points like clockwork - and he's now free to keep flaming out in the playoffs like the rest of the team.
Starting next year the Sharks will have $50-something million tied up in 14 players. And while top-heavy rosters certainly work (see the two most recent Cup winners), and Thornton will still be cashing game checks larger than everyone but Dany Heatley's,(notes) pay cut or no.
Thornton presents an interesting situation, as there are very few players to whom we can compare him. Alex Ovechkin(notes) is perhaps the closest, since he too is highly paid and famous for having his team implode come the postseason, but he's also considerably younger and has appreciably more raw and fearsome talent than does Thornton. And no one would ever question Ovechkin's will to compete the way they have Jumbo Joe's.
And sure, it's nice from the Sharks' point of view that Thornton took less money than he currently makes; they can put that extra $200,000 toward... well, something, certainly. But this was a deal Joe asked for specifically. Doug Wilson got a call out of the blue from Thornton's brother/agent spelling out the details that were eventually agreed to. The motivation to stay in San Jose must have been rather strong. And that's great for both sides.
Thornton, with a new baby girl, gets security and stability for his family and still pulls in a boatload of money. The Sharks get an elite power forward and a bit of breathing room against the cap.
One could reasonably argue that what Thornton did was admirable. In two years, when Sid Crosby's contract runs out, it would be sincerely shocking to see him volunteer to take less money. While there's no doubt he'll be a Penguin pretty much for life, he'll always demand, and get, top value.
But that's because Pittsburgh -- not just the team, but the whole city -- needs Sidney Crosby(notes). And Silicon Valley doesn't need Joe Thornton, which makes his job much easier than Sid's. This transaction happened because it's more convenient for everyone that it did.
Thornton's taking less money wasn't necessary, but his staying in San Jose was.