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Sharks ink Thornton to 3-year extension

NHL.com @NHL

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -Although Joe Thornton might have made a bit more money elsewhere next year, the San Jose Sharks' star center thinks he looks good in teal.

The Sharks signed Thornton to a three-year contract extension worth $21.6 million on Sunday, keeping the 2006 MVP in San Jose through 2011.

Thornton is the NHL's leading scorer over the last two seasons with the Sharks, who acquired him from Boston on Nov. 30, 2005. He won the 2006 scoring title with 125 points and finished second last season with 114, dominating the Western Conference with his peerless playmaking skills.

He still has one season at $6.67 million left on the extension he signed with the Bruins after the NHL lockout. But when he sat down with his agent-brother, John, to decide his long-term future, Thornton only saw himself on the California coast.

"There's no question I was going to re-sign there," Thornton said from his summer home in St. Thomas, Ontario. "It's just a perfect fit for me. The ownership wants a winner, and we've got a great young team there. I'm looking forward to being there for a long time."

General manager Doug Wilson said Thornton didn't squeeze every last penny out of the Sharks because he wanted the club to have enough financial flexibility to keep its roster together. Wilson is pursuing a contract extension for captain Patrick Marleau, Thornton's friend and road roommate, and hoping to re-sign defenseman Scott Hannan.

"I think we're all really ecstatic that it went so easy," said Thornton, whose 28th birthday is Monday. "I love playing there. I love the people in the organization. ... As far as I'm concerned, that's the place I want to play."

The four-time All-Star had 22 goals and 92 assists last season, trailing only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in the NHL scoring race. Thornton became the third player in league history with back-to-back 90-assist seasons, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Thornton led San Jose into the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, where the Sharks lost to the Red Wings in six games. But Thornton erased any lingering reputation as a postseason underachiever, scoring 11 points in 11 games despite constant pressure from the top defensemen on Nashville and Detroit.

Keeping Thornton in San Jose with a long-term deal stretching through the prime of his career was a top priority for Wilson, who promised to fine-tune his roster after the NHL's fifth-best regular-season team flopped with three straight losses in the playoffs. Thornton's quick deal made everything easier, the GM said.

"We have pretty open communication, and Joe stepped up," Wilson said. "I certainly think he gave us a break to be able to do this in the (contract) term on the condition of being able to keep a group of the other players. ... These players are all just evolving into their primes. They've had some successes, and they've had continuity, and they want to keep it together."

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