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Thornton undecided on future, says he'll only return with Sharks

Center, pending free agent will turn 40 in July

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- Joe Thornton doesn't know if he'll return for his 22nd NHL season. But if he does, it'll be with the San Jose Sharks.

"I'm a Shark," the center said Thursday. "There's one team, and it's here."

Thornton, who will turn 40 on July 2, just completed a one-year contract and could become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He has played with the Sharks since they acquired him in a trade with the Boston Bruins, who selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, on Nov. 30, 2005, and has 1,024 points (244 goals, 780 assists) in 1,034 games with San Jose. He has played in 1,566 regular-season games, the second most in NHL history for a player who has never won the Stanley Cup behind Patrick Marleau (1,657).

This past season, Thornton had 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 regular-season games and 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"He can have all the time he needs to make whatever decision's right for him, but we love him," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "I've been in this business a long time, I've never met anyone like him and we cherish the days we have him. Whatever decision he makes, we're there for him."


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Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said, "[Thornton's] still got game. For me, I'd love to have him back."

Thornton said he sustained a pulled groin on the first shift of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues but that it wasn't a major problem throughout the series. As a result, he won't need rehab this summer, as he did last offseason after having surgery to repair a torn MCL in his right knee on Jan. 25, 2018. 

"It weighs on you man, it does," Thornton said. "Some guys are going to have to go through it this summer, and it's a grind. It's mentally tough to do that every single day and not sure what the outcome is going to be. For me personally, I don't have that issue."

While Thornton decides whether to play another season, forward Joe Pavelski, who can also become an unrestricted free agent July 1, said he's confident he'll play for the Sharks in 2019-20. 

"I've got a pretty strong belief system that I'll be back here, it's just things that have to work themselves out along the way," Pavelski said. "It's nothing I'm too worried about. We love it here, we really do. Love playing here. I'm sure things will move along, and we'll have talks and see where we're all at."

Video: Thornton, free agents headline key Sharks offseason

Pavelski did not play in Game 6 of the conference final against the Blues after he said he reaggravated a lower-body injury when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo hit him along the boards in the third period of Game 5. He also missed the first six games of the second round against the Colorado Avalanche after sustaining a concussion in Game 7 of the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights. 

Wilson said Pavelski, who had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 13 playoff games, had surgery on his left hand two weeks ago and was also dealing with a knee injury.

"You can't put into words, both of them, I think," Wilson said. "Since the day [Thornton's] joined this organization, it was franchise changing. To see Joe Pavelski, I go back to Jumbo, [defenseman Brent Burns] and [forward Evander Kane] helping Pavs off with that injury (against Vegas), and seeing how the group responded, that tells you the impact and how much they care about him. Both have been huge part of this franchise and we're very proud to have them." 

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