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Thornton return to Sharks has NHL players excited

Forward agreed to one-year contract to play 22nd season

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Joe Thornton agreed to a one-year contract with the San Jose Sharks on Friday to play his 22nd NHL season, and players around the League praised the forward for his game and longevity.

"'Jumbo' is the GOAT (greatest of all time)," Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said at the NHL Player Media Tour. "It's crazy he's been doing it for this long, and to be as efficient as he has, his whole career is just incredible, right? I think that's good for the game, him coming back. I know just from knowing guys who played on the Sharks or are friends of his that he's a good dude too. You need that kind of leadership in the locker room. So that's awesome for him."

Thornton had 51 points (16 goals, 35 assists) in 73 regular-season games last season and 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Sharks reach the Western Conference Final. Thornton, who turned 40 on July 2, is the active leader and 14th in NHL history with 1,478 points (413 goals, 1,065 assists) in 1,566 games with the Sharks and Boston Bruins. He's the Sharks leader in assists (780), is second in games (1,034) and points (1,024), and is third in goals (244). Thornton has 133 points (31 goals, 102 assists) in 179 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

 

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"I don't think it's amazing that he's playing, I think it's amazing on how he's playing and putting up numbers, making plays," Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar said. "And I'm sure he's had to adjust a little bit. If you look back 15 years compared to now, the game has changed a lot. So the fact that he can adapt and produce in the way that he produces, not just trying to stay in the lineup. He's the guy on the power play that they go to and he's making plays and all that. It's great to see, not so great for us in L.A., but I'm sure San Jose fans and the players are happy to have him."

Video: Thornton, Sharks agree to terms on one-year deal

Nashville Predators forward Matt Duchene said he enjoyed being a linemate of Thornton's for Team Canada at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

"He's one of those guys that only comes around once in a lifetime in terms of probably the type of player and also the type of guy he is," Duchene said. "He's hilarious. He's a good leader. He's just a good person. He's a guy I always root for and he always makes me laugh when I watch him out there with that big smile and with that beard after he scores a goal or makes a play.

"I just think he's so gifted and his style of game just doesn't go out of style. He's lasted through so many eras. I feel like every five years the League turns over completely, or even three years it just changes so much. It's a tribute to how good he is that he's just been able to maintain that level and keep playing."

Thornton has put together an impressive resume through his 21 seasons in the NHL. League players are happy to see he isn't done adding to it.

"He's one of the best playmakers who's ever been in the League," Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers said. "He's so smart with the puck and his hockey sense is unreal. Obviously he's meant a lot with the on-ice stuff to the game of hockey. He's a guy who's for sure going into the Hall of Fame one day, no doubt."

NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report

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