The San Jose Sharks have elected not to exercise their team option on left wing Scott Thornton for the 2006-07 season, making the 35-year-old an unrestricted free agent. Thornton signed with the Sharks as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2000.
San Jose could have claimed the option on Thornton and then moved the player for a pick, but Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson wanted to reward the veteran winger by letting him choose his next team.
“I have a lot of respect for Scott and his wife Joelle,” said Wilson. “I was offered a pick (if we signed and traded him), but it was to a team he would not have wanted to go to. It’s not every player you do this for, but I have a lot of respect for him and it is how I was treated when I left Chicago. This gives him time to check out his options.”
Thornton, who was scheduled to make in excess of $1.5 million next year, had become expendable due to high-end talent like Steve Bernier and Milan Michalek taking larger roles on the team.
“It was a hockey decision (to go in another direction),” said Wilson. “There are changes every year as it is the same for us as a team that wins the Stanley Cup. We’ve got guys coming from underneath and we will look externally too to improve our team.”
Wilson feels that Thornton could be a good fit for someone on the free agent market.
“I think with his fitness level, he will certainly play if he wants to,” said Wilson.
Thornton now joins Alyn McCauley as Sharks players who could become free agents on July 1.
“With Alyn, we’re waiting to see about his health and we’ll meet and have discussions in the last week of June,” said Wilson.
Thornton played in 342 games with San Jose from 2000-2006, posting 147 points (77 goals, 70 assists) and 439 penalty minutes. His 147 points rank him 12th on the Sharks all-time points list. His lone career hat trick came with the Sharks on March 7, 2001 in Florida.
In 2005-06, Thornton scored 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 71 games with the Sharks. He played alongside Mike Ricci for much of his tenure in Silicon Valley, besting his career high in goals and points in 2000-01 (19 goals and 36 points) and then accomplishing the feat again in 2001-02 (26 goals and 42 points).
Thornton has posted 264 points (132 goals, 132 assists) and 1335 penalty minutes in 836 NHL games with Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal, Dallas and San Jose. His 342 games played with San Jose are the most with any team for the big winger.