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Thornton wants to return to Sharks, would take less money

38-year-old forward says he'll be fine after surgery to fix torn ligaments in right knee

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Joe Thornton wants to return to the San Jose Sharks next season and said he expects to fully recover from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right knee.

"Obviously I want to come back, and I'm sure we'll try and work something out," the 38-year-old center said Tuesday, two days after San Jose's season ended with a 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round. "It's no secret I'm a Shark. I bleed teal and I want to come back and I know I'm going to be healthy when I come back. I'm sure we can figure something out, but I want to come back."

Thornton signed a one-year, $8 million contract July 2 after becoming an unrestricted free agent. He said he would be willing to take less money if it helped the Sharks land a big-name free agent to boost their chances of winning the Stanley Cup.

"Oh yeah, absolutely," said Thornton, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. "There's enough money around for everybody. I want this team ultimately to win the Stanley Cup. The city deserves it and these guys deserve it. Whatever we decide, that's going to be in the back of my head, just making this team better."

Video: What's next for Joe Thornton and Evander Kane?

General manager Doug Wilson said he's eager to begin contract talks.

"I don't think there's a player that I've met in 40 years in this business that I respect more than Joe Thornton," Wilson said. "He's incredible. When it comes to contracts and things like that, I have a lot of different contracts, different players I have to do. But I look forward to sitting down with Joe and his agent very quickly."

Coach Peter DeBoer made it clear he wants Thornton on his team next season.

"We love Joe Thornton," DeBoer said. "The last 10 games he played for us, he might've been our best player. He looked like he did two or three years ago. He was back to a point a game and he was playing outstanding hockey. I have no doubt that he can recover from this because I saw him do it last year with the same injury."

Video: WPG@SJS: Thornton and Boedker collide at center ice

Thornton tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in a game against the Vancouver Canucks on April 2, 2017, but returned to play the final four games in San Jose's 4-2 series loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs. He had surgery shortly after the Sharks were eliminated.

Thornton tore the same ligaments in his right knee Jan. 23 against the Winnipeg Jets and had surgery. He resumed skating with the Sharks on March 23 and practiced throughout the playoffs but never returned to the lineup.

"I needed some more time," Thornton said. "That's just the reality of it. I needed to get my knee a little bit stronger. It was responding really good. It's responding good now. I'm going to be healthy, but I just need some more time."

The Sharks also hope to re-sign forward Evander Kane, who can also become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Sharks acquired Kane on Feb. 26 in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, and he had 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 17 regular-season games. He had five points (four goals, one assist) in nine playoff games playing with a separated shoulder.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Kane goes top shelf on Fleury

"I think he's a difference-maker," Wilson said. "He came in here and I talk about our leadership and our culture, I think he really appreciated that. We appreciated him. I think it was a good fit for him. It was a good fit for us. I'll sit down with him and his agent the next little while."

Kane, who turns 27 Aug. 2, can become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NHL career. He said the Sharks made a strong impression on him.

"Getting traded here was great. To be part of a winning environment again and getting to know this group of guys and the coaching staff and this organization as a whole definitely helps and definitely gives me a great idea about San Jose," Kane said. "It's been really, really positive. Nothing is set in stone, nothing has been talked about, and we'll take it from there."

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