NHL Trade Deadline primer: Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

NHL Trade Deadline

With the NHL trade deadline getting close (February 24, 3 p.m. ET) the Pro Hockey Talk crew will be taking a closer look at some individual players that could be on the move. Today we focus on San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton.

Player: Joe Thornton
Current Team: San Jose Sharks
Position: Center
Contract: Unrestricted free agent after this season with a $2 million salary cap number

Why the Sharks might trade him: Because Joe Thornton could possibly ask to be traded. He has a no-movement clause  and holds all the cards.

This season started in San Jose with Stanley Cup expectations as the team tried to make another run at a championship. They were in the Western Conference Final just last season, and even though they lost a couple of key players from last year’s team (Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi) there was still a good core in place, even if it was a flawed one due to its goaltending situation.

They spent big money, and they intended to win.

But once the puck dropped absolutely nothing has gone as planned or hoped.

The Sharks now find themselves with the second-worst record in the Western Conference, one of the worst records in the entire league, and almost zero chance of making the playoffs this season.

They are not going to tear everything down, but some changes will be made.

Thornton, though, may not have many run chances at a Stanley Cup, which is still the only thing his Hall of Fame resume is lacking to be complete.

Does he go for his Ray Bourque moment and ask for a trade to a team that still has a chance this season? TSN’s Frank Seravali reported this week that both the Boston Bruins (his former team) and Tampa Bay Lightning have had internal discussions about potentially adding him.

Teams that could/should be interested: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning

What he provides: It wasn’t that long ago that Thornton was still a legitimate MVP candidate, but he is not that player anymore. He is 40, father time has slowed him down, and his goal-scoring ability has all but evaporated (he has two goals in 55 games this season).

But he could still has some value as a depth center.

While he is no longer much of a threat to score goals, he still has some of the playmaking and vision that made him one of the NHL’s greatest passers ever. This season he is averaging 0.67 primary assists per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time, a number that puts him among the top-half of the league’s forwards (112th out of 289 forwards with at least 500 minutes). He also still has a strong defensive impact and ability to drive possession, currently sitting 22nd among the aforementioned group of forwards in shot attempts against per 60 minutes, and also in the top half of the league in scoring chances against. He is also on the positive end of every shot attempt and scoring chance differential.

In other words: Not a bad third-or fourth-line center for a Stanley Cup contender.

Predicted destination: Even though the idea of a Thornton reunion in Boston is fascinating, and the chance for him to end his career with a championship in the city where it all began is a perfect storybook ending, he ultimately remains right where he is in San Jose.

More NHL Trade Deadline:

• Trade Deadline primer: Chris Kreider
• Trade Deadline primer: Tyler Toffoli
• Trade Deadline Primer: Ilya Kovalchuk
• Trade Deadline Primer: Alec Martinez
Trade Deadline Primer: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Teams that need to be active at trade deadline

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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