Report: Panthers, Thornton ‘close’ on extension (Update: Done Deal)

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Shawn Thornton might not be headed for retirement after all.

Thornton, who turns 39 in July, is apparently close to signing a contract extension in Florida, per the Miami Herald.

A 14-year veteran, Thornton has spent the last two years in Florida on a $2.4 million deal with a $1.2M average annual cap hit. It’s a bit surprising to hear the Panthers want to retain his services — while he’s been lauded as a veteran leader and tough guy that will stick up for his teammates, his on-ice role has diminished, averaging just 8:51 TOI this season while appearing in only 35 games.

That said, this is Florida.

GM Dale Tallon is a fan of experienced players like Jaromir Jagr (44 years old), Willie Mitchell (38), Brian Campbell (who turns 37 this year) and Roberto Luongo (ditto).

It’s also worth noting that several young Panthers have been on the receiving end of some physical play this year — Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have each taken big hits within the last couple of months — and Thornton could be used to “protect the kids,” as it were.

He currently sits tied for second on the club in fighting majors this season, with four.

Update: The Panthers have confirmed the signing. It’s a one-year deal, financial terms yet to be disclosed.

“We are pleased to have Shawn return for another season,” Panthers Owner, Chairman & Governor Vinnie Viola said. “Shawn is the embodiment of the selfless, team-first culture we are trying to create on and off the ice with the Florida Panthers and has made himself an important part of the South Florida community. We look forward to having this man of character as a leader within our organization for many years to come.”