The rest is history…
Flashback Friday: Boston Bruins Trade Joe Thornton to San Jose Sharks
In 1997, Boston decided to use their first-overall pick on Joe Thornton of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. His rookie season with the Bruins was far from noteworthy, playing mainly on the fourth line for 55 games. However, he made an impressive leap in production his sophomore year, recording 16 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. In addition, Thornton managed to score nine points in 11 postseason games.
As his experience grew, so did Thornton’s on-ice production. His point total climbed the next two seasons and posted his career-high in goals (37) in the 2000-01 season. Thornton became the Bruins captain ahead of the 2002-03 season and recorded his first 100-plus point season. Unfortunately, his production declined the following year, triggering the beginning of a rocky relationship between Boston and Thornton.
In the summer of 2005, Thornton became a restricted free agent. He expressed his unhappiness with Boston and the Bruins criticized his leadership. Despite these issues, the two sides came to an agreement on a new three-year, $20 million deal.
Thornton was off to a hot start to begin the 2005-06 season. However, the Bruins were struggling to obtain any success as a team. As a result, Boston decided to trade away the recently re-signed Thornton to San Jose for Primeau, Stuart, and Sturm.
Thornton did not waste any time in making the Bruins regret their decision to part ways with him. He recorded 92 points in 58 games with the Sharks, tallying 125 total points on the season. Thornton became the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy while splitting the season between two teams. In addition, he captured the Hart Memorial Trophy, being crowned the league MVP for his magnificent season. He is the only player in NHL history to be awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy while playing for two different teams in one season.
While 125 points would not be reached again, Thornton would put together another fantastic season with the Sharks in 2006-07, recording 114 points. His 92 assists made him only the third player in league history to record over 90 assists in back-to-back seasons. Who were the other two players? Only the legendary Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Although Thornton never went over the 100-point mark again, he remained one of the most, if not the most, valuable members of the Sharks roster. In his 957 games with the franchise, he has scored 226 goals and added 743 assists. Since becoming a team in 1991, it is hard to find anyone in San Jose Sharks history more deserving of the title “Face of the Franchise” than Thornton.
How About the Other Three?
As for the players that headed to Boston, only one of them had any success with the Bruins. Both Stuart and Primeau were traded to the Calgary Flames on February 10, 2007. In return, the Bruins received Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference.
Sturm, on the other hand, had a decent stint with the Bruins. After being traded from San Jose, he recorded 23 goals and 20 assists in 51 games. When his tenure with Boston was through, he had scored 106 goals and added 87 assists in 302 contests. Although Sturm proved to be a valuable member of the Bruins, his contributions never came close to what Thornton provided the Sharks.