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Joe Thornton signs a 3-year deal to stay in Boston

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
BOSTON—The Boston Bruins agreed to terms with center Joe Thornton on a three-year contract on Thursday. Thornton was in Boston on Friday to sign the contract and he and Bruins General Manager Mike O'Connell met with the media during a press conference at TD Banknorth Garden.

"Joe's signing was a priority and we are again making clear how much he means to this franchise," said O'Connell. "He is among the upper echelon of players in our league and he just continues to get better.

"Joe is a huge component of our quest for a championship, to bring the Stanley Cup back. We feel that he is one of the dominant players in the National Hockey League. We are very, very happy to get this done."

Thornton, 26, enters his eighth NHL season after Boston made him the first overall selection of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He came to the NHL directly following two seasons of junior hockey with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League where he had 71-127=198 totals in 125 career junior games.

Thornton spoke about how happy he was to remain with the Bruins. He also spoke about what he and his agent, J.P. Barry, went through yesterday to get the contract done.

"After seeing all these players sign [with the Bruins], I talked to Mike [O'Connell] a couple times, and yesterday I told J.P. [Barry], ‘let's get this done,'" said Thornton. "Mike and the Jacobs' family really wanted to get this done as well. I wanted to come back and they wanted to have me, so it was really a no-brainer to come back here. I love this city, I love playing here, and I'm just excited."

The 6'4", 225 lb. native of St. Thomas, Ontario has scored 20+ goals in each of his last five NHL seasons, twice reaching the 30+ goal mark. He has led the club in scoring three times, including each of the last two NHL years, and in 2002-03 he finished third overall in the NHL's scoring race with a career-high 101 points as he earned NHL Second Team All-Star honors.

He led the Bruins in scoring in 2003-04 with 23 goals and 50 assists for 73 points with 98 penalty minutes in 77 Boston games. Thornton was named the 17th Captain in franchise history on October 8, 2002 and he enters this season with 160-261=421 totals and 611 penalty minutes in 509 career NHL games.

Thornton spoke about how much it meant to see so many quality players sign with the Bruins since free agency began on Aug. 1.

"I've been excited for a while," said Thornton." We signed [Brian] Leetch, we signed [Dave] Scatchard, and we signed Glen Murray back and Shawn McEachern. With all those guys signed, I really felt like I wanted to come back. I talked to Mike [O'Connell] a bunch of times. I really love this city, and I think we have some unfinished business. We're really going to go after the Stanley Cup this year.

"I really think this team—on paper—looks great right now, and I'm really excited to be back. I'm looking forward to playing."

Thornton played for Team Canada in the 2004 World Cup tournament last September with one goal and five assists for six points in six games as Canada won the Gold medal. He spent the 2004-05 season with Davos in the Swiss League, leading that team in scoring and finishing seventh overall in league scoring with 10 goals and 44 assists for 54 points in 40 games.

He added 4-20=24 totals in 14 playoff games as Davos won the Swiss championship. He finished the year with Team Canada in the 2005 World Championships and was named Most Valuable Player of that tourney as he led all players in scoring with 9-10=16 totals in nine World Championship games.

Thornton said he is excited about the rule changes, and he feels they will make the game more fan-friendly.

"Without the red line, I think it's going to be a lot more exciting game, and I think you're going to get more scoring chances," said Thornton. "It's a lot more fun to play, and if the refs call a lot more of the clutching and grabbing it's going to be more fan-friendly and more exciting. Hopefully there will be a lot more high-scoring games. The rules look great. The shootout after overtime is a great idea, so nobody goes home with a tie. I'm just really excited to play with these new rules and see how they work."

When asked if he had ever entertained the thought of signing with another team, Thornton ended any all speculation.

"Never," said Thornton. "I talked to Glen [Murray] after he signed, and I know there have been some articles in paper with him telling everybody I wanted to come back. And everybody knew I wanted to come back, and I think all the speculation was just far-fetched. This is the city I want to play in. This is the city I love, and I'm just happy that I'm going to be coming back for three years."
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