Joe Thornton has taken the plunge.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced that the NHL legend has signed a one-year contract worth the $700,000 veteran minimum.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 16, 2020
Thornton’s addition will supplement the stable of cheap deals that the Leafs have signed in an effort to balance their top-heavy payroll. However unlike other modest deals signed this offseason, the Thornton agreement does carry some risk, as it includes a no-movement clause and the money cannot be buried in the minors. It’s unlikely that Thornton would have signed the agreement without those assurances, anyway.
Thornton, 41, is currently skating in Switzerland with HC Davos while preparing for his 23rd NHL season. He scored seven goals and totalled 31 points while playing in all 70 games last season for San Jose.
It’s unclear how exactly the Leafs plan on deploying Thornton next season. With Alexander Kerfoot and Jason Spezza filling in behind Auston Matthews and John Tavares on the centre-ice depth chart, Thornton may have to shift to the wing to earn minutes as a swingman on Sheldon Keefe’s lineup.
Toronto has had a focus on veteran additions this offseason, adding Wayne Simmonds and Zach Bogosian up front, while also re-signing Spezza. The efforts have been both a necessity and in some parts deliberate from the franchise, which seems to have acknowledged in its rapid ascent that the roster has been missing key intangibles in terms of leadership and veteran voice.
For more on how Thornton fits, read here.
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