The Sharks have had a great deal of success in keeping their talented core together and Joe Thornton
’s contract extension on Saturday was the latest example of a player’s initiative helping keep everyone together.
“I think we take it as a great compliment when a player like Joe who is in his prime steps up,” Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson said. “It is a compliment to his teammates and to the fans about how he feels about being here. It means an awful lot to this organization.”
Thornton’s deal of three years at $7 million a year (he has one year left on the previous contract), falls in line with what other players have done recently and that has let the entire group stay together. Patrick Marleau
, Joe Pavelski
, Ryane Clowe
and Douglas Murray
have followed the lead of a contract Thornton signed three years ago that has allowed San Jose to acquire the likes of Dan Boyle
and Dany Heatley.
“This is the second time he’s done this,” Wilson said. “Not only the dollars, but the term and the structure. It allows us to do certain things going forward. It’s a sign of leadership and character that Joe certainly has. They said this is what they want to do. He wants to do what’s best for his teammates. He thinks of others before himself and he is a special guy. I think this is a teammate to teammate choice that they’ve all made. They want to be here and they are all coming into their prime. We have a great window with their ages and building on last year.”
The dedication from the Sharks ownership group, Wilson and the entire hockey staff and front office also plays big role for the players. Chasing every available dollar is the choice of some, but it is not the way it works for the collective player group in San Jose. They know the few dollars more they could obtain here goes right back into the lockerroom.
“Back in the old days, you could have gotten $12 million, but now you’ve got to think of what’s best for the team,” Thornton said. “We’re all on the same page. We all just want to win and you take a little less to win a Cup. That’s our goal. We haven’t gotten there yet, but we’re going to get there.”
For high end talent like Thornton and his teammates, winning is the ultimate payout.
“It’s more important to win than to get the extra X amount of dollars,” Boyle pointed out. “If you can be happy on a last place team making more, that’s not the team I want to be on. It’s nice to see guys find a way to make it work.”
With everyone staying together, it makes that elusive chase for the Stanley Cup that much more attainable and that is what Thornton and everyone else in the room wants. Now San Jose’s captain can just focus on hockey.
“It’s nice to get it done,” Thornton said. “I had a baby girl this summer, so I wasn’t really thinking about hockey. This is our first home game and we’ve been talking for a little bit . . . just get it done now. I’m happy it’s over and now I can be a Shark for four more years. Now we’ve just got to do the things to get the Stanley Cup. I just think a lot of the Sharks and wanted to stay here and make it as easy as possible for both parties. It was a no brainer for me to want to play with this group of guys.”
The mention of a Stanley Cup is important for all involved and why they’ve stuck together.
“That’s all it is,” Marleau said about everything being about the NHL’s silver chalice. “Obviously San Jose is a great place to play. The guys want to be here and to have success here and it shows in the contracts they sign.”
There is one group who will continue to benefit as much as Thornton’s teammates.
“It’s really good for Joe and his family, for his teammates and most importantly, it’s really good for the fans,” McLellan said. “He’s an elite player who can do a lot of things a lot of players can’t. It’s fun to watch him play and we’re excited about having him and the core together for a few more years. We’ll try to make the best of it.”
Thornton said the family is on board with staying in San Jose instead of chasing dollars around somewhere else, but there is one financial reality he’ll have to deal with.
“She (his wife) will be fine with it even though I have to (start) buying some more diapers,” Thornton laughed.