Thornton didn't meet with the media Monday, and the Bruins did not officially announce the two-year extension Thornton was first reported to have signed Saturday until late Monday afternoon, but that didn't stop teammates and opponents alike from weighing in on the new deal with praise for the efforts of Boston’s popular pugilist.
Toronto tough guy Jay Rosehill traded punches with Thornton the last time the teams met in Toronto on March 6 but had nothing but compliments for his fellow enforcer after Monday’s morning skate as the teams prepared to clash again Monday night at the Garden.
"It's nice to see a guy that's come as far as he has and has done well and proven how well he can play get rewarded," Rosehill said. "To have a guy like that on your team is great. I think they're happy to have him, obviously. I like to model myself in a similar style, I guess you could say, in playing that tough role but at the same time being able to play out there and contribute on the ice."
Thornton certainly has contributed plenty in his first five seasons in Boston, posting career-highs with 10-10-20 totals last year before playing a key role in the Bruins' run to the Cup with his leadership, toughness and energy. This season, he's continued to provide the Bruins with a strong physical presence, leading the entire NHL with 19 fighting majors. He’s done that while still being responsible and reliable enough to skate a regular shift, a rarity among the tough-guy set.
"I definitely respect the job that he does," said Bruins center Gregory Campbell, Thornton's linemate for the past two seasons. "It's not an easy job. I think you get more of an appreciation for him playing with him. I know he’s respected around the league, but when you play with a guy you obviously see a different perspective. What I see from him is professionalism every day, hard work, and he's a leader off the ice. He’s a big part of the team."
The Bruins will reportedly pay Thornton $1.1 million a year for the next two seasons to keep him a part of the team. The signing will follow extensions to Adam McQuaid, Rich Peverley, David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk, all of whom would have been free agents this summer. The Bruins still have several players scheduled for free agency after the season, including Campbell, who would like nothing better than agreeing to an extension of his own.
"Of course this is where I want to be," Campbell said. "This is a great place to play, a great organization, and a successful one. Every player wants to play where there’s been success, and there's more success to come. It's really nice to see those guys get those extensions, and they’re a big part of the team, but the important thing is focusing on playing and not the other stuff."
Thornton's focus has never wavered on his long road to the NHL, which featured a decade toiling in the minors before earning his first opportunity at full-time duty in the NHL with Anaheim in 2006-07. Thornton earned his first Cup ring that season with the Ducks, who were coached by Randy Carlyle.
Carlyle took over behind the Leafs bench earlier this month, but he's kept track of his former player and isn't surprised by the success Thornton has found in Boston.
"I think that Shawn Thornton has been able to continue to build off the year we had him in Anaheim," Carlyle said. "He hasn't changed his approach. I think he's getting more recognition because he went out and earned it. He's a catalyst. He was a catalyst for our hockey club when we had him in Anaheim, and that’s what he's doing for the Bruins. It's great to see a player put in number of years of hard work, and I’m talking years, not months of hard work, and be rewarded with a contract of that stature. He's earned everything that he's got, and he earns it the tough way."
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