Via Jasen Vinlove (USA TODAY Sports)
NHL legend and current Florida Panthers winger, Joe Thornton seems to have moved on from his time within Florida’s organization. Thornton’s wife, Tabea, posted a message of goodbye on her Instagram last Wednesday.
“South Florida, I loved our time together! This break-up hurts and I will miss you,”– Joe Thornton’s wife, Tabea
It became apparent that the Panthers were ready to move on from Thornton after they inked veteran forward Eric Staal to a professional tryout on July 13. Thornton, who has played 24 NHL seasons since making his debut in 1997 with the Bruins, turned 43 in July.
What will Jumbo Joe do next?
Thornton has recently agreed to become the new director of the Spengler Cup, which is an international competition that takes place in Davos, Switzerland annually. The tournament hasn’t taken place since 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thornton is no stranger to hockey in Switzerland, as he has spent time with HC Davos of the Swiss National League (NL) on multiple occasions throughout his career. His most recent stint with HC Davos came before the 2020-21 NHL season in which he recorded five goals and six assists for a total of 12 points before returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
What are the implications for the Panthers and their lineup?
Simply put, this won’t be too tough of a pill to swallow for Florida. Thornton, who signed a one year contract with the Panthers prior to the 2021-22 campaign in an attempt to finally win an ever-elusive Stanley Cup, only played in 34 regular season games, the lowest amount in his career. He was able to muster five goals and five assists in a somewhat limited role, where he averaged just over 11 minutes of ice time per game. Nonetheless, he was penciled in as a healthy scratch most nights. Thornton’s vacated spot leaves room for newly acquired players like Colin White, who suited up in 24 games for the Senators last year, and intriguing prospects like 2018 first round pick Grigori Denisenko to draw into the lineup and get an expanded look in the NHL.
Thornton’s Career Wrap Up
At this point, it appears highly unlikely that Thornton latches on with another team for a 25th season. Thornton and veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara, who also remains a UFA, are the only two active players in any of the four major North American sports leagues who have played in the 1990’s. If this is truly the end of Jumbo Joe’s time in the NHL, what a career it was. Thornton suited up in an incredible 1,714 NHL games, good for sixth most all time in NHL history. He put up a stunning 1,539 points in that span, including 430 goals and 1,109 assists. This places him 12th on the list for all time points leaders in the NHL. Thornton’s swift passing ability, high hockey IQ, and hard nosed style of play allowed him to cement himself as one of the true legends of the game. His career accolades include six NHL all-star selections, an Art Ross and Hart Trophy win in 2006 when he put up 125 points with the Bruins and Sharks, and an NHL First All-Star Team selection also in 2006.