In June, Joe Thornton hinted that he would be returning for his 22nd NHL season, and that he believes he could play five more years.
Almost two months later, Thornton still is an unrestricted free agent. He was seen working out with former Shark Patrick Marleau recently, and Sharks center Logan Couture, who has played with Thornton for 10 years, would be shocked if Jumbo isn't back.
"I talked to Joe a month ago and asked him what was going on and he said, 'Oh don't worry about it,' so I took that as he'll be back," Couture told NHL.com. "I just kind of figure it's going to happen, he's still got time, I'm sure he'll be back with the Sharks."
For Couture, playing without Thornton alongside him in teal is a tough one to envision.
"He has the invaluable assets that you need in any dressing room. When he walks in, he demands respect, he creates a fun atmosphere and fun environment, I couldn't imagine playing on a team without Jumbo," Couture told NHL.com. "My mind just can't work that out, not having Joe around, because it's been 10 years with him and it's been so much fun."
At 40, some might expect Thornton to be nearing his NHL expiration date, but Couture knows that isn't the case based on what he's seen from his longtime teammate.
"He can't give it up, he works so hard, so the day he stops I'll be shocked," Couture said. "When we lost to [the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference final], I ran into him in the gym like nine days later and Jumbo had already been in there working out, and that was not his first day back. He loves the game, loves it, more than anyone."
With Joe Pavelski leaving for the Dallas Stars, the Sharks can ill afford to lose the 51 points Thornton contributed last year.
It sounds like Jumbo's return is a matter of when, not if.