Thornton apparently dodged disaster in terms of his left knee, as multiple sources have told NBC Sports California that the brunt of the damage was to his MCL, not his ACL.
As long as he recovers fully, as expected, there’s reason to believe that Thornton could be better next season than he was in 2016-17.
Thornton, who turns 38 in July, suffered the tears on Apr. 2 against Vancouver. He sat out the final three games of the regular season and the first two of the playoffs before returning in Game 3 of the Oilers series. Playing through the pain, Thornton registered two points over four games while averaging just under 19 minutes per night.
“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” head coach Peter DeBoer said following the series. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”
That gutsy performance further endeared Thornton to the Bay Area faithful, and he was pretty beloved to begin with. It also clearly made an impact on his head coach.
Those are just two of the many facets that promise to make up a compelling summer.
Thornton just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M cap hit. He’s played exclusively on three-year contracts since coming to San Jose more than a decade ago, and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp is looking for another.
From Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s perspective, he’ll have to factor in Thornton’s recovery and long-term health outlook to any potential extension. Wilson also has a timing issue at play, as it would behoove the Sharks to sign Thornton after June’s expansion draft, so they don’t have to protect him.
Finally, there’s the added factor of Thornton’s longtime running mate in San Jose, Patrick Marleau, also needing a new contract.
Thornton’s situation does appear the more complex one. Some will argue his down ’16-17 campaign — one in which he only scored seven goals and 50 points — was a sign of father time catching up.
Others will counter it was the byproduct of a brutally long ’15-16, one in which Thornton went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final (and had 21 points in 24 games, it should be noted), then had a short summer before joining Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey.