Joe Thornton is one of the best players in NHL history who hasn't won a Stanley Cup, but will he choose to chase that elusive ring and ask for a move before Monday's NHL trade deadline?
Thornton has played more than 15 years for the San Jose Sharks after the Boston Bruins traded him to the West Coast during the 2005-06 season. The Sharks have been one of the league's winningest teams during the regular season with Thornton, but playoff success has largely escaped them. They've reached the Stanley Cup Final only once during his tenure in San Jose, and the Sharks lost that series to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games four years ago.
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Thornton is 40 years old and in the final year of his contract. If there was a time to pursue a Stanley Cup title with a contender, it's right now. So, if he does want a trade, which teams make sense for the veteran center? Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun spoke to multiple executives around the league who shared their thoughts on the best fits for Thornton.
He has a full “no move” clause, but the Sharks would like to give him the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. If he’s going to be dealt, then league executives believe he’ll only go to a team that has a chance to win, so the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins are both viewed as good fits.
Thornton coming back to Boston, the place he began his Hall of Fame career, and winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins would be an amazing story.
From a hockey fit perspective, Thornton would be a good bottom-six addition for the Bruins, but only if another move for a goal-scorer was made ahead of the deadline. Thornton alone isn't going to make the Bruins a much-improved team. He's no longer an elite offensive player, and he hasn't hit the 20-goal mark since 2010-11. Thornton is still a decent playmaker and effective on the power play, but the Bruins need secondary goal scoring behind the Perfection Line. A player like New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider would best address this concern, and TSN reported Tuesday that the Bruins and Avalanche have emerged as frontrunners for a Kreider trade.
Kreider and Thornton would be a nice haul for the B's and help give them a strong chance to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the playoffs. All three of these teams have made trades over the last two weeks to bolster their rosters for the postseason.
Being traded to a contender doesn't always work for players in Thornton's position, and Jarome Iginla in 2013 is among the best recent examples. But Thornton absolutely deserves a chance, and the Bruins arguably are best-positioned of any team to win the Stanley Cup this spring.