The Florida Panthers have signed unrestricted free agent forward Joe Thornton to a one-year, league-minimum contract worth $750,000. The 42-year-old veteran will join the Panthers for his 24th season in the NHL.
Panthers Sign Joe Thornton
The former first-overall pick in the 1997 NHL draft, Thornton has spent the majority of his career as a franchise player on the San Jose Sharks and the Boston Bruins. Thornton won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in the 2005-2006 season while also winning the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer that same year. He is the San Jose Sharks’ leader in assists, +/-, and points per game.
Last season, Thornton signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs and mostly played a bottom-six role while bringing his leadership and veteran experience to a relatively young Leafs’ team.
Thornton put up 20 points in 2020-21 and was a key part of their powerplay unit. However, despite putting up solid numbers in the regular season, he was a non-factor for the team in their first-round playoff matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. In the seven playoff games that the Leafs played, Thornton had only 1 point.
What To Expect
The signing of Joe Thornton gives the impression that the Panthers are going all-in this season. The team looks to be contending for the Stanley Cup in 2021-22, but first will have to get through a tough Atlantic Division crowded with the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens.
While Thornton isn’t the same player he once was, he should bring some leadership and playoff experience to a young Panthers’ core. He will also offer some stability to the teams bottom-six as they compete for a playoff spot, whether playing in his natural centre position or on the wing. Although the Florida Panthers signing of Joe Thornton may not improve the team’s skilled core, he is a great addition that will provide some important intangibles that every team values in this league.