Joe Thornton plans to return for 2019-20 NHL season, and maybe more

It looks like Joe Thornton and his glorious beard won’t be hanging up his skates any time soon.

The San Jose Sharks legend confirmed at the NHL Awards media availability on Tuesday that he plans to return for the 2019-2020 season, officially putting his retirement party on hold for the foreseeable future.

But Thornton, who says he plans on playing as long as he’s healthy and feeling good, isn’t just preparing for next season. In fact, the Sharks’ all-time leader in assists appears to be set on taking a page out of Jaromir Jagr’s playbook.

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Thornton, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, didn’t specify if he would be returning to the Sharks for his 22nd NHL season, but then again he didn’t really need to.

At the end of the 2019 campaign, Thornton said that if he were to return in 2019, it would be with no team other than the Sharks.

"I’m a Shark,” Thornton shared with the media at San Jose’s end-of-season availability, according to NBC Sports. “There’s one team, and it’s here.”

The Sharks, who cleared some space on the salary cap by trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier in the day, appear to be more than willing to accommodate Thornton’s desire to stay in San Jose.

"He can have all the time he needs to make whatever decision’s right for him," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said of Thornton back in May. "But we love him. I think I’ve been in this business a long time, I’ve never met anyone like him and we cherish the days we have him."

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