Joe Thornton agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the San Jose Sharks on Friday. Financial terms were not released.
The forward, who turned 40 on July 2, had 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 regular-season games with the Sharks last season and 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
"It wasn't too long after the season ended, I started getting back into the gym and feeling good, so it was definitely before July," Thornton said of when he knew he wanted to play another season. "I'm not sure exactly, but it's been a while."
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Thornton was mostly healthy last season after having major knee surgery prior to each of the past two seasons. He said not having to spend this offseason rehabilitating an injury was a contributing factor in his decision to return.
"These last few summers I had to go to rehab every day and I really couldn't focus in on what I needed to do, and really I wasn't skating until later on because my knee just wasn't ready," he said. "This summer I was skating for a month and a half now, getting stronger. My body feels really, really good."
Acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005, Thornton is the Sharks leader in assists (780), is second in games (1,034) and points (1,024), and is third in goals (244).
"I've been in this business a long time and I've never met a guy loves the game like him, loves the team, makes everybody around him better," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "It's a privilege for all of us to be around him because he's contagious in how he's impacted this franchise not only on and off the ice, but his teammates and all the young guys have had the ability to learn and watch and see what it takes to truly be great.
"It's a great way to start the season, not only with 'Jumbo' signing but with having everybody under contract and ready to go."
The Sharks re-signed several key players this offseason, including defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year contract on June 17, and restricted free agent forwards Timo Meier (four-year contract) on July 1 and Kevin Labanc (one-year contract) on July 8.
"I told [Doug], 'You figure out your stuff and then come find me,' so I was in no hurry. ... We talked all summer. He knew I was going to come back, and I knew I was going to come back," Thornton said.
Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: Thornton quickly responds with second
Selected by Boston with the No. 1 pick of the 1997 NHL Draft, Thornton has 1,478 points (413 goals, 1.065 assists) in 1,566 games over 21 seasons with the Sharks and Bruins. He has 133 points (31 goals, 102 assists) in 179 playoff games.
"I'm super excited about that," Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said at the NHL Player Media Tour in Chicago on Friday after being told of Thornton's return. "I know the signing was coming because I saw Jumbo when I was [spending the] last two weeks in San Jose. He was working hard. ... He just wants to play hockey and he loves the game. I'm so happy he'll be there for my year because he's a great teammate, great guy in the locker room and over the years.
"He can show how if you want to stay in the League long, how hard he's working every single day. He hates days off, he hates missing time from the rink. ... He's just a special guy. It's nice to have him back for at least one more year."
Thornton is the NHL active leader in assists and points and is eighth in assists, 12th in games and 14th in points in NHL history.
An 11-time 20-goal scorer, Thornton won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL most valuable player in 2005-06, when he had 125 points (29 goals, 96 assists) with the Sharks and Bruins and led the NHL in points.
He was an NHL First Team All-Star in 2005-06 and was named to the Second Team three times (2002-03, 2007-08, 2015-16).
NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika contributed to this report