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Sharks' Joe Thornton wants to return to play at least another year

Curtis Pashelka, The Mercury News on

Published in Hockey

Joe Thornton wants to play at least another year.

"Yeah, and longer," Thornton told reporters with a laugh Tuesday at the NHL Awards' media availability in Las Vegas.

"Probably play another 10 years," he added. "We'll wait and see, but I'm thinking five to 10 right now. I got nothing else going on."

Kidding aside, Thornton, slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, said he plans to meet with majority owner Hasso Plattner, general manager Doug Wilson and coach Pete DeBoer and "figure something out" for next year, which would be his 22nd NHL season.

Asked about Thornton on Monday after the Sharks signed defenseman Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million deal, Wilson said, "there will always be a place for Joe Thornton in this organization, on or off the ice."

Wilson has praised Thornton in the past for his flexibility in regards to his last two contracts, both one-year deals. Thornton may need to be as flexible this summer considering the Sharks, as of now, are projected to have $16.3 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com, with several roster spots left to fill.

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Forwards Joe Pavelski, Gus Nyquist and Joonas Donskoi top the list of other Sharks players who can go to the open market July 1.

Thornton is finally entering an offseason where he doesn't have to rehabilitate a knee injury, something he said last month would factor into his decision on whether to return. Thornton tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in April 2017, and had the exact same injury in Jan. 2018, only to his right knee.

"My body feels great, and it's going to be the first time in a long time I don't have to rehab in the summer," Thornton said, "so I'm excited for that."

Thornton and defenseman Brent Burns are both finalists for NHL Awards, which will be presented Wednesday. Thornton is a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, given "to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Burns, for the third time in four years, is a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman.

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