The Bruins announced the signing of forward Shawn Thornton to a new two-year deal on Friday. According to TSN.ca, the deal will pay the rugged winger $1.625 million over the two seasons — or $812,500 per season.
Both general manager Peter Chiarelli and Thornton were happy to get the deal done before Thornton hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"I love this city, I love being here and I’m still here so I’m really glad to be back and I’m glad we could make it happen," Thornton said in a conference call.
According to Chiarelli, the intent was to lock Thornton up to an extension all along.
"It’s something that we wanted to do and we’ve talked about it for a while with Shawn and his group," he said.
Thornton, who was named by his late grandmother after the John Wayne character, "Shawn Thornton," in The Quiet Man, ironically a fighter himself in that movie, has been anything but quiet during his three seasons in a Bruins uniform.
He has been a vocal leader both on and off the ice and this past season was fifth in the NHL with 21 fighting majors. But as Mark Recchi pointed out in a recent NESN.com feature, Thornton is just the type of role player the Bruins need and brings a lot more to the table than simply fisticuffs.
"You look at a guy like Shawn Thornton and how hard he tries not only every night but every shift — and sure, he doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but so what?" Recchi asked rhetorically. "You find another guy like that, that had 21 fights, can play ten solid minutes and be a huge leader in the dressing room. That’s the type of sandpaper guy maybe we need more of and probably every team but the Stanley Cup champion does, right? They’re hard to come by, but we have that in him and I think other guys could play with that grit too."
In the conference call with the media Friday, Chiarelli stated a similar assessment and reasons for bringing Thornton back into the fold, relating his style of play to that of what Chiarelli has envisioned the team identity to be: "Hard to play against."
"I think you can characterize Shawn as being hard to play against," Chiarelli said. "You’ve seen him play, so I think that’s fairly obvious."
Chiarelli added that he would try to bring in more players of that ilk.
"As far as adding more pieces, I’ve said, at I guess my last press conference, that we’d look to the trade market and certainly we’re looking in this market," he said. "You want to add these types of players with this element of the game to their whole game. You don’t want a whole team of them, but certainly we have some players of some interest that have these types of things in their games. As far as a master plan, we want to continue to have this identity and I know we faltered a bit this past year but it’s certainly something we want to continue to have and that will always play into our plans."
The last few seasons the Bruins have allowed role players such as Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Glen Metropolit get away via free agency or trades, and this past season the absence of such players was noticeable. Chiarelli, while pointing out that eventually the younger players need to assume such roles, did acknowledge that was a problem and signing a guy like Thornton hopefully will correct that.
"It’s obviously important," Chiarelli said of keeping character and role players on board. "The key is to find the right mix. You guys have made it well-documented about some of the guys from last year that didn’t return. Part of that is passing the torch to a certain degree and there’s always and adjustment period when you want to try to pass the torch. And we feel that we’ve overcome that to a certain degree. 'Thorny' is one of the guys we want to have around and he’s a good person and he works hard. He comes to work everyday and works hard and sets a very good example."
Thornton is honored to be categorized in such a role and looks forward to being a key veteran leader on the Bruins in the next two seasons.
"I’ll continue to do the same things and I mean, it’s huge to be even thought of in that role," he said. "We’re going to have a young team. We’re going to have some good guys coming in from what I hear. So I’ll do my best in that dressing room to do what I’ve been doing the last few years and try to help out as much as possible."
The sting of the Game 7 loss to the Flyers and blowing a three-game series lead is still fresh, but as Thornton pointed out, he didn’t necessarily need that to be hungry for next season. He will prepare hard as he always done and be ready when the puck drops in Prague, Czech Republic for the start of the Bruins' season next October.
"Obviously, everyone was really disappointed with the way things ended," he said. "You learn from your mistakes you get ready to do what you have to do to make it the best year possible.
"I’d like to think that I’m always kind of starving, so … It left a bad taste in my mouth obviously, but I try and come in and prepare the same way every year."