Sharks general manager Doug Wilson wanted to have Joe Thornton back next season and was willing to give him the time he needed to make a decision on where he wanted to play — either in San Jose or in Toronto with the Maple Leafs.
Ultimately, though, Wilson knows the two teams are just in different spots. While the Leafs feel they’ll be in a position to compete for a Stanley Cup next year, the Sharks will have a long road back after they finished 29th out of 31 teams this past season.
“They had a better year than we did last year. We have to reestablish our game,” Wilson said Sunday of the Leafs. “So that’s a fair and honest evaluation with how it sits today, and it’s up to us to go change that. Joe is, at 41, looking at what the runway left is in opportunity, so I fully understand that.
“So it’s up to us to go to work, get back at it, learn from what happened last year, get the guys healthy.”
Friday, Thornton signed a one-year contract with Toronto, ending an unforgettable 15-year tenure with a Sharks team that now needs to find an identity without its biggest emotional leader.
“It’s hard to put into words the impact Joe had on our franchise over the last 15 seasons,” Wilson said. “He came here as a 26 year old and now he’s 41. He’s still childlike in his love for the game, and I think there’s probably very few players in all sports that can alter a franchise in a way that he has.”
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Wilson and Thornton have spoken with each on a regular basis over the last few weeks. Wilson said he was honest with Thornton about the steps he was taking to try and get the Sharks back to a more competitive level long term.
“In this year’s draft, we ended up drafting nine forwards. We needed to rejuvenate and replenish our system,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t really in a position to move, potentially, our first round pick next year.
“So I shared all the information I could with him with where we’re at, and I wanted him to make the right decision for him for everything he’s done for all of us. I didn’t want to put any pressure on him. This is just a unique time and place. We haven’t played for a long time, we’re dealing with a pandemic we’re not sure when we’re going to start next year. So I wanted him to have all the information he needed to make the right decision for him.”
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Thornton’s departure marks the third time in four year a franchise cornerstone has left the team in free agency.
When Patrick Marleau left in 2017, the Sharks had Timo Meier ready to take those minutes on the top six forward group. When Joe Pavelski left for Dallas last …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment