Free-agent center Joe Thornton said Friday he "absolutely" will play in his 23rd NHL season, but he's in no rush to sign with the Sharks or any other team at the start of free agency.
Thornton, 41, called The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun from Switzerland, where he is training and skating with HC Davos, on Friday. Thornton told LeBrun he might play in the Swiss League prior to the start of the next NHL season, which the league is targeting to begin Jan. 1.
With Thornton reiterating his intention to play, the focus shifts to where that will be.
Thornton has spent parts of the last 15 seasons becoming an icon in San Jose, but the Stanley Cup continues to elude him. He expressed frustration to The Athletic's Kevin Kurz one day after the trade deadline that he wasn't dealt to a contender, and you have to figure a probable Hall of Famer -- even at Thornton's age -- is attracting plenty of interest from the league's elite with free agency underway.
The Sharks acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk and winger Ryan Donato -- whose father played with Thornton on the Boston Bruins -- from the Minnesota Wild to begin revamping a roster that finished last in the Pacific Division and Western Conference in 2019-20. There's still a long way to go on that front.
San Jose has the benefit of being Thornton's home, but will the veteran stay if he's not assured the Sharks are contenders? Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told reporters Wednesday that he spoke with Thornton before the start of free agency, but Thornton's comments Friday indicate those conversations didn't lead to an agreement to re-sign.
The salary cap remaining flat due to league revenues lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the uncertainty surrounding the start of next season, means free agency might not be as frenzied as previous years. Many transactions will have to wait, and Thornton's future appears to be no exception.