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Joe Thornton signs with the Maple Leafs

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Brian Burke doesn’t like the idea.

Toronto Maple Leafs VS San Jose Sharks Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Joe Thornton to a one-year deal paying $700,000.

There are some critics of the long-rumoured deal:

Thornton, unlike almost all other NHL players of his stature, has been content to sign one-year deals since 2017 that have stepped down his salary from $8 million to this year’s somewhat astonishing league-minimum.

Thornton and Patrick Marleau are the two oldest players under contract for the 2021 season, at least until Zdeno Chara re-signs. At 41, he has, to last year, still played a middle-six role. He is listed at 6’4” and 220 lbs and is a left-shooting centre, notorious for never actually shooting. In the pass-first hall of fame, he is the king.

After a career that spans seven and a bit seasons in Boston, followed by 13 and a bit in San Jose, he will (likely) end his career in the NHL on his third team with the Maple Leafs.

He has 1,636 NHL games played, 420 goals and 1.089 assists. When the numbers get that big, the boxcars to tell the story of how a player plays.

He is currently playing in Davos, Switzerland, where he trains every year and has played in both lockouts. When the NHL training camp begins, he will come to Toronto.

Originally from St. Thomas, Ontario, his nickname of Jumbo is more famous that the elephant statue that sits at the edge of that city and may or may not be the true origin of the name.

After suffering from some knee problems, Thornton has put in two seasons of 70+ games and is getting points at a pace that belies his age, but is showing decline from his career average of 0.92 per game.

His usage on the Sharks in the last few years is complicated enough that it will likely need some time to unpack, but he has played with very good linemates most of the time, but at about third-line minutes and with third-line competition. He’s not likely to play with the Leafs’ best forwards all that often. But if there isn’t at least one starting lineup of Simmonds - Thornton - Spezza, I want my money back.

The risk to the Leafs here is negative nothing, and the possibilities of fun and some goals (scored by other people) are good enough at that price to celebrate Jumbo coming home to end his career.