If you like redemption stories and veteran players chasing one last chance at a championship, then boy, do we have an idea to sell you.
The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and the Boston Bruins figure to be quite busy as they gear up for what they hope is another deep Stanley Cup playoff run. General manager Don Sweeney should look to be fairly aggressive this year with the hopes of getting the Black and Gold over the hump after last year’s heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Sweeney likely will turn over every stone in his quest to improve the roster, and that apparently includes taking a look at San Jose Sharks center and former Bruins captain Joe Thornton.
The Athletic’s Joe McDonald reported Sunday that a top-six forward and defensive depth are on Sweeney’s to-do list, but Thornton might also be an option.
“The team has also at least pondered how Thornton might fit on the current roster, according to multiple persons with knowledge of the club’s thinking,” McDonald wrote.
At least one person inside the Bruins’ dressing room wouldn’t mind seeing it happen.
“He would have an impact on and off the ice,” an unnamed Bruins player told McDonald.
Bringing in Thornton, whom the Bruins drafted first overall in the 1997 draft, would be a fascinating move. The future Hall of Famer has pretty much done it all in his career except for hoisting the Cup. In fact, Thornton has reached the Stanley Cup Final just once in his 23-year (!) career, when the Sharks lost to Pittsburgh in 2017.
Seeing Thornton’s career come full circle and watching him get one last kick at the can with the franchise that drafted him would certainly be a nice story, but it’s fair to wonder how much sense it makes for the Bruins. The 40-year-old Thornton is a long way removed from the days of contending for the Hart Trophy. He has just two goals and 22 assists in 56 games this season and is playing a career-low 15:12 per game.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s hard to see how he’d fit into the Bruins’ lineup. Thornton conceivably could center the third line, but Boston is at its best when Charlie Coyle is centering that line, assuming the club is getting production from the top two lines, as well. Maybe Thornton could skate on the fourth line. He’d certainly be the most famous fourth-line center in the NHL, but the Bruins would have to decide whether they want to break up the chemistry of their checking line in order to bring in Thornton.
The 6-foot-4 forward could also give the Bruins some additional size and playmaking ability on the power play, but would he represent a significant upgrade for a power-play unit that ranks second in the NHL?
These are the sorts of questions Sweeney and his team must answer in the next two weeks. Thornton is on a one-year, $2 million contract, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue. Maybe if the Bruins strike out on something bigger they could turn to Thornton.
It certainly would make for a good story if nothing less.
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