The Toronto Maple Leafs’ search for a big, highly skilled No. 1 center might take them to the West Coast.
San Jose Sharks captain and center Joe Thornton has been the subject of trade speculation since his team blew a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
According to the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Maple Leafs are among the teams that have shown some interest in the 2010 Olympic gold medalist.
“It should come as no surprise, then, that the Leafs are among at least six NHL teams who have kicked tires concerning Thornton’s availability,” writes Mike Zeisberger.
“And why wouldn’t they? With center being a position of need for the Leafs ever since Mats Sundin left, why not make an inquiry if someone of Thornton’s ilk might possibly come on the market?”
Toronto took a step back in 2013-14 and failed to make the playoffs one year after taking the Boston Bruins to seven games in a thrilling Round 1 series in 2013. At the moment, the Leafs’ top center is Tyler Bozak, who in fairness is a quality player, but he would be a third-line player on just about every contending team.
Thornton finished 13th in scoring with 76 points (11 goals, 65 assists) in 82 games, and he hasn’t tallied less than 70 points in a season since 2001-02 when he posted 68 points in 66 games for the Boston Bruins. If he were to play at center alongside top-six wingers Phil Kessel and/or James Van Riemsdyk in Toronto, the 34-year-old veteran could produce at a point-per-game level again. Thornton also has shown remarkable durability throughout his career by missing just five regular-season games over the last eight years.
While the thought of Thornton putting on a Leafs jersey certainly would excite fans in Toronto, completing a deal for Jumbo Joe won’t be easy. As Zeisberger notes in his report, Thornton has a no-movement clause in his contract and holds the power in choosing his destination if traded.