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Thornton expected to return with Sharks, Meier says

40-year-old forward is unrestricted free agent

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

STOCKHOLM -- Joe Thornton will sign a contract with the San Jose Sharks and be skating in training camp next month, teammate Timo Meier said Thursday.

"I think everybody that knows 'Jumbo' expects him to be back," Meier said during the NHL European Player Media Tour.

Thornton, who is an unrestricted free agent, said during the 2019 NHL Awards in June that he intended to return for his 22nd NHL season. The 40-year-old center, who has been with the Sharks since he was acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005, has played each of the past two seasons on a one-year contract.

"The way he's training and the way he's still in shape with his 40 years, I don't doubt that he's coming back," said Meier, who had an NHL career-high 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games last season. "He'll be playing until he can't anymore. Probably he'll play longer than he can walk. I really hope he's going to be back because he's just a huge presence and the guys all love him there and obviously we all know what kind of hockey player he is."

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Thornton has been skating at the Sharks practice facility in San Jose, where he was photographed with former teammates Patrick Marleau and Christian Ehrhoff on Monday.

Ehrhoff, a defenseman who retired on March 26, 2018, was wearing a black T-shirt and shorts and stood between Thornton, who was in his Sharks practice jersey, and Marleau, who was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs practice jersey.

Marleau, also an unrestricted free agent after being bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes five days following a trade from the Maple Leafs on June 22, could be interested in signing with the Sharks. Marleau, who turns 40 on Sept. 15, played 19 seasons in San Jose before signing with Toronto on July 2, 2017, and is the Sharks' all-time leader in games (1,493), goals (508) and points (1,082).

Meier said he doesn't have a feel for Marleau's situation because the 22-year-old has been living in Switzerland during the offseason.

"I probably know less than you do," Meier said. "I've been trying to do my work, trying to get in shape for the season and obviously enjoy my time at home, prepare the right way for the season."

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