With Marco Sturm dealt to Los Angeles in December, none of the three players acquired for Thornton remain in Boston, with Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau sent to Calgary for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew nearly four years ago on Feb. 10, 2007. Kobasew, in turn, was dealt to Minnesota last season, adding yet another degree of separation from that infamous Thornton trade.
And yet the shadow of that trade will loom over the Garden once again on Saturday when Thornton returns to Boston for just the third time as a Shark.
Thornton was on the winning side in each of his first two trips back to Boston, though he didn't have much to do with the first victory. Returning just 41 days after the deal, Thornton was tossed 5:13 into the first period on Jan. 10, 2006 when he was called for checking Hal Gill from behind and given a major penalty and a game misconduct. The Sharks didn't need him that night, rolling to a 6-2 win.
San Jose took a little longer to get going in its only other visit to the Garden with Thornton, but scored four unanswered goals in the third period for a 5-2 win on Feb. 10, 2009. Thornton had the third of those goals to make it 4-2 at 9:48 of the third.
Thornton has had some individual success when hosting his old club out West, but the Sharks haven't fared as well overall. He assisted on San Jose's only goal when Boston won 2-1 on Oct. 13, 2007 and scored the only goal in regulation for the Sharks before the Bruins prevailed 2-1 in a shootout on Jan. 14, 2010. Overall, Thornton has 2-1-3 totals and is a plus-2 in four games against the Bruins.
Now he returns again, and he's sure to get a hostile reception from a Garden crowd that still booed Dennis Wideman in his second game back with Florida last month.
Wideman will never have anywhere near the impact on the Panthers that Thornton has had with the Sharks, becoming the first player to win the Hart and Art Ross trophies as the league's MVP and leading scorer after being traded during that season when he took home that hardware in 2006.
Thornton has put up 130-393-523 totals in 433 games with the Sharks, nearly double what the three players acquired for him combined for in their stints in Boston, where Sturm, Stuart and Primeau had 136-134-270 totals in 506 games between them.
But Thornton has slowed of late, with just 86 and 89 points the past two years and 14-32-46 totals through 50 games this season. And like the Bruins, Thornton still hasn't won a championship despite the talent assembled around him in San Jose, though he did reach the conference finals last year and has five postseason series wins to the Bruins' two since his departure.
Both teams would need to win three playoff series this year alone to meet again this season, as the only chance for another encounter would be in the Stanley Cup finals, and if the Bruins can manage that, Boston fans will have plenty of reasons to get excited without worrying about getting worked up over seeing Thornton again.