Shawn Thornton‘s release from the Boston Bruins means that his seven-year stint in Boston is over, but the 37 year old will most definitely not struggle in finding a home next season with one of the other 29 teams in the NHL. While Thornton’s talents will no longer be needed in Boston, his ability to play the game, besides simply fighting, will make him a worthy free agent signing this summer.
For a guy who is known primarily for scoring knockouts instead of goals, Thornton is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, while also having a knack for goal. When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, he had his most productive season, notching 10 goals and 10 assists. And despite his physical style of play, Thornton has always remained relatively healthy. In seven full seasons in the NHL, Thornton has always played in the majority of games. Since the 2008-09 season, his second in Boston, Thornton missed 36 games, with 15 stemming from his suspension as a result of the ugly incident with Pittsburgh Penguins‘ Brooks Orpik in December 2013.
While Thornton was able to stay healthy for most of the season, his style of play was also worthy of a consistent spot on the Bruins’ fourth line. For a fighter to maintain a regular role in the lineup for seven seasons in a playoff team, it speaks to the character and ability of Thornton.
For all of these reasons, teams will most definitely come calling for Thornton’s services this summer. The role of fighting is diminishing in professional hockey, but his ability to adapt to a style of play outside of simply fighting is what allows Thornton to still have a place in the NHL. The decision for the Bruins not to re-sign Thornton is one that shows that Boston wants to focus more on speed rather than toughness. However, other teams will most definitely want the services of a tough guy who can also play the sport the right way.
With Peter Chiarelli announcing his release before the free agency period begins, it allows teams to plan for a spot for Thornton. He will not have a spot on the Bruins, but Thornton will definitely be in the NHL next season.