BOSTON — Bruins forward Shawn Thornton may not be a Bruins forward much longer, but he’s hoping he can stay in black and gold. At the very least, he’s going to call Boston home for a long time.
Thornton will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and his future with the Bruins is very much up in the air. The 36-year-old insists he wants to play at least another season — maybe two — and he’s hopeful that he can do so in Boston.
“Of course,” he said Friday at the team’s break-up day when asked if he’d like to be back with the Bruins, “I love it here.”
Thornton says he and his agent still need to speak with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to start discussing the potential of a new contract.
There is a case to be made for moving on from Thornton. The fourth-line winger isn’t getting any younger, and Boston’s fourth line struggled with consistency, especially during the playoffs. Some of that stems from the fact that the line didn’t play together all year as Daniel Paille suffered multiple concussions, and Thornton was suspended for 15 games in the middle of the season.
“The rhythm wasn’t there, but some of that was because we didn’t play together, we didn’t practice together and we didn’t get a ton of minutes, either,” Thornton said. “It’s not an excuse, but it’s a lot easier to get in a rhythm when you’re rolling, rolling, rolling. It’s pretty simple, I think. So we definitely can be better and have more to give. Hopefully we get a chance where we can get more.”
The Bruins have a handful of young forwards who have proved at times that they could be worthy of getting a shot, but the case for keeping Thornton for at least one more year is a pretty obvious one, too. He’s a leader in the dressing room, and he plays a role of enforcer on the ice, which is a skill set that’s still valued among his Bruins teammates.
“He’s the best in the league at what he does,” B’s winger Brad Marchand said. “He’s such a big part of the town and the team, and he’s a great guy to have in the room. He’s always upbeat and getting guys going and laughing. When it’s time to step up and be a leader, he’s there, too. He’s a guy you can depend on.
“He sticks up for his teammates, and those are the guys you want on your team. … You need guys like that on your team. When you’re out there, you feel safe, and he’ll protect you.”
If Thornton and the Bruins can’t find a way for him to stay with the Bruins, Thornton said that he’ll ultimately return to Boston when his career is over. He and his family have decided they’ll call Boston home after his playing days come to an end.
“I’m still going to be here, I’m still going to be in the community,” he said. “This is where we live now, this is home. That stuff won’t change. I’ll be here, trying to get back when I can.
“”I love it. Let’s not talk about it like the past, I might be back. It’s been great. I love it here. I really do. There’s a reason we stick around in the offseason. It’s one of the best cities in the world. I can’t think of anywhere else I would have rather been.”