Rick Zamperin: Maple Leafs hoping Joe Thornton makes big impact

After 15 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Joe Thornton (19) is joining the Toronto Maple Leafs. AP Photo/Josie Lepe

Joe Thornton has played 22 seasons in the National Hockey League and has never won the Stanley Cup, and now he’s joining the franchise that owns the longest active championship drought.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed ‘Jumbo Joe’ to a one-year contract worth $700,000 last Friday, a deal that includes more than 35 performance based incentives.

It is a low cost, low risk contract that could end up making a big impact on, and off, the ice for the Leafs.

The 41-year-old Thornton, the first overall pick in the 1997 draft, is the NHL’s active leader in points (1,509) and assists (1,089) and a sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer.

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It remains to be seen where in the lineup head coach Sheldon Keefe puts the six-foot-four centreman but it is safe to say that Thornton isn’t joining Toronto to become the team’s offensive sparkplug.

The days of Thornton being among the NHL’s top point producers are long gone, but again, that’s not why Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas made it one of his offseason priorities to bring the former San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins big man to the blue and white.

Read more: Toronto Maple Leafs sign Joe Thornton to 1-year deal

Thornton has seen it all and has pretty much done it all too, save for raising the Cup over his head, and brings with him a suitcase full of leadership and character, two qualities the Leafs’ roster doesn’t have enough of.

Odds are Thornton will centre the third or fourth line on the Maple Leafs and will be stationed on the second power-play unit.

If the Leafs find themselves trailing in the third period of a game, Keefe has proved that he isn’t adverse to tweaking the lines on the fly, so we could see ‘Jumbo Joe’ paired from time to time with the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares or Mitch Marner —  or all three.

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Thornton should not be viewed as Toronto’s Stanley Cup saviour, instead, he is just another ingredient that Dubas has added to his recipe to bring a long awaited title to the city.

Combined with other free agent additions, such as forward Wayne Simmonds and defencemen T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian, Dubas is hoping that he has at long last concocted a winning formula.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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