"I told him that he was one of the most significant acquisitions we made … one, for the role that he played, two, for the person that he is," Chiarelli said, praising Thornton both for his contributions on the ice and his role in the community.
"It was nice to rehash his time. It was sad to tell him he wasn't coming back. I wished him well."
He became a regular, playing more than 70 games in four consecutive seasons from 2008-12, and establishing career highs with 10 goals and 20 points during Boston's championship season of 2010-11. Thornton often teamed with center Gregory Campbell and wing Daniel Paille to form the "Merlot Line," nicknamed for the color of their practice jerseys.
"I think he was able to form one-third of maybe the best fourth line in hockey for the longest time," Chiarelli said.
Thornton has career totals of 38 goals, 88 points and 906 penalty minutes in 559 regular-season games. In 101 Stanley Cup Playoff games he has one goal, seven points and 81 penalty minutes.