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Free NHL Company Rumors: Joe Thornton is in Switzerland, Maple Leafs subsequent?

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With the uncertainty of the next season, we will now call it the 2021 season, Joe Thornton has decided to lace his ice skates in Switzerland.

The 41 year old veteran, or the legend as HC Davos called him when he announced his return on social media, is returning to the team for his third stint. He played for the Swiss squad when the NHL was suspended in 2004-05 and for a short period of time in 2012-13 before the shortened season began after another labor dispute. Thornton met his wife Tabea during his first tenure in Switzerland and they return in the off-season.

In 73 games he collected 90 points (22 goals, 68 assists) and led the club to the league championship and the Spengler Cup. In this 2004/05 season he teamed up with NHL colleagues Rick Nash and Niklas Hagman. He is expected to play in HC Davos' game on Saturday.

Back to the NHL, the big question for now is, where will Jumbo Joe play when the season starts again? As an unreserved free agent, Thornton may end his 15-year tenure in San Jose.

As early as February, he expressed his disappointment that he was not transferred to a Stanley Cup contender on the cut-off date – like his buddy Patrick Marleau was with the penguins.

“I wanted a shot, you know? Believe it or not I've chased this thing for 22 years, so I wanted to try again, "he said the next day, according to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic." I wanted to get something back (for the sharks). It just didn't work out. Back to the grind, and so it is. "

Marleau re-signed with the Sharks on Tuesday, but some speculate the non-movement left a bad taste in Thornton's mouth.

"I can still go back there, everything is open," he told the German-language Tages-Anzeiger on Thursday.

"I've been watching this, all the 'buzz', the questions about what's going to happen to me," added Thornton. "The desire to continue playing (in the NHL) is there. I will be able to prepare well for it here in Switzerland."

So is he going to continue it in San Jose or elsewhere? There has been some speculation that he will join his old pal Joe Pavelski in Dallas. The biggest rumors, however, revolve around the Maple Leafs.

"My understanding is that both Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe have spoken to Joe Thornton about the Leafs' interest in him, and I think it's real," TSN's Pierre LeBrun told Andi Petrillo and Craig Button recently on the Leafs Lunch "from TSN Radio 1050." "

"The Leafs reached out to him in 2017," added LeBrun. "And at the time they were trying to sign both Thornton and Marleau. But what was interesting at the time was a copy by Mike Babcock-Lou Lamoriello … This time it's Dubas and Keefe."

Of course, Thornton has been a shark longer than his beard can grow, and it could be difficult to disconnect from his home since 2005. But the Sharks are in the middle of a rebuilding and in time for the future Hall of Famer, a move could be exactly what Father Time ordered.

Is moving east – and about a two-hour drive from where he grew up in St. Thomas, Ont. – the right thing? Well the Leafs could use him. Keefe's squad underperformed significantly in the qualifying round and was unable to recover in the second leg – despite a game. Thornton, who has already played in deep playoffs, including a cup final, and is noisy in the locker room and on the bench, could be just what the team needs to get back on their feet in close matches.

You also need a third line center. With her staff at the moment, Alex Kerfoot is engaged in that position, and while he did an admirable job in the postseason between Kasperi Kapanen (who has since been traded) and either Ilya Mikheyev or the young Nick Robertson, Thornton would be an update. Andreas Johnsson, who skated with Kerfoot and Kapanen during the season but missed the bladder with a knee injury, was traded for the Devils.

Sure, Thornton only racked up 31 points in 70 games in the 2019-20 shortened season, but last year he had 51 in 73. His linemates of Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorenson also showed a lack of production, but if you look at 5v5, you actually had 55.40 percent Corsi For and 55.26 percent Scoring Chances For (per Natural Stat Trick). It should be noted that Thornton is also an important power play type and putting it in the unit of an already powerful power play group definitely wouldn't hurt.

That Keefe allegedly spoke to Thornton is a sign they want "Jumbo" in a Leafs sweater; When a coach calls and (presumably) says, "Hey, so watch out and take us to the promised land," the wheels are definitely turning. Now it's up to Thornton to decide what's next. But right now he's preparing to dominate in the Alps.

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Steven Gregory