Hockey

Joe Thornton officially returns to Sharks

Joe Thornton will be back with the Sharks for what will be his 22nd NHL season.

Thornton and the Sharks have come to terms on one-year deal worth $2 million, a source confirmed, as general manager Doug Wilson completed his last big piece of business before the start of training camp next week.

It's the third consecutive year that Thornton, 40, has agreed to a one-year deal to remain in San Jose. Thornton and the Sharks agreed to an $8 million contract for the 2017-18 season and a $5 million deal for last season.

"Words cannot equate the impact that Joe has had on this franchise since his arrival in San Jose in 2005," Wilson said in a statement. "Joe is a generational player who seemingly blazes past an existing Hall of Famer with each game he plays. His leadership and dedication to the organization and his teammates is inspiring.

"He has the rare ability to make the players around him better and we're excited to see him healthy and back wearing the Sharks crest."

Per CapFriendly, the Sharks now have roughly $2.68 million left in space under the NHL's $81.5 million salary cap for this season.

Thornton said June 18 in Las Vegas, a day before the NHL Awards, that he wanted to come back and play at least one more season. Wilson said earlier this summer as well that Thornton would be welcomed back if he did decide to return.

It was not immediately clear, though, why it took more than two months after the start of free agency for Thornton and the Sharks to reach an agreement.

Thornton finally entered an offseason where he didn't have to rehabilitate a knee injury, something he said in May 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 in May.

Thornton was eighth on the Sharks this past year with 51 points in 73 games. He averaged 15 minutes and 33 seconds of ice time per game, largely as the Sharks' third line center.

Thornton is the NHL's active leader in career assists (1,065) and points (1,478), and is second with 1,566 games played. He scored his 400th career goal Nov. 13 and on April 4 passed Nicklas Lidstrom (1,564) into 12th place on the all-time games list and Steve Yzerman (1,063) into eighth place on the all-time assists list.

Acquired by the Sharks from the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005, Thornton has 780 assists and 1,024 points in 1,034 games with San Jose. During that span, no NHL player has more assists than Thornton, and his 1,024 points with San Jose ranks third amongst all NHL players since the trade.

On the Sharks franchise list, Thornton is first in assists, points per game (0.99) and plus-minus (plus-180). He ranks second in points (1,024) and games played (1,034), and third in goals (244).

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