Joe Thornton

Jumbo Sized Speculation

It hasn’t taken long for the dust to settle on the Rick Nash trade, with pundits already speculating that San Jose Sharks center man Joe Thornton would look good alongside the recently acquired left winger.

The speculation, and I use that term because there’s been nothing more than some suggestions from a couple of reporters including Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe and Steve Zipay

The whole thing appears to have gotten kicked off by John Buccigross earlier in the week, when he linked the Rangers and Dan Boyle, implying that the Rangers and Sharks were talking.  The speculation is further backed up by memories of the pair playing together for HC Davos of the Swiss Nationaliga back in 2004-05 during the last NHL lockout.

The links are tenuous at best.  Yes Nash and Thornton had some success eight years ago, playing in a league that is not counted among the best of the European competitions – despite the Rangers’ preseason loss to EV Zug last year, but significant time has passed for both players, and the NHL is most definitely a different beast.

Also consider that the Rangers already traded three NHL capable players for one in the Nash trade and would likely again face the prospect of losing ore depth with an acquisition of Thorton.  At the very least you’d have to expect them to lose Derek Stepan, if not Carl Hagelin as well.

Then there’s Thornton’s no-trade clause.  Jumbo Joe may very well be willing to make a move after playing over 500 games each for the Bruins and Sharks with little to show for it, but he’ll have to at least smooth the little spat he had with coach John Tortorella last year, after calling the Rangers “soft” – as recapped by Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News:

“Yeah it caught me off-guard when it was brought up after the game,” Tortorella said at the team’s Greenburgh practice facility Tuesday morning. “It surprised me, and I’ve never heard a player say that. Joe’s a heck of a player, but here’s a player popping off about our team, and Joe hasn’t won a g–damn thing in this league. He could go down as a player, being one of the better players in our league never to win anything. So what he should do is just shut up. It was uncalled for, it was classless, and I’ve never had it happen like that before.”

The Sharks for their part are coming off a disappointing season in which they finished seventh in the West and lost in the first round to the St Louis Blues.  They may be looking to change direction, but they still have plenty of Cap space left – over $5M per CapGeek.com – with 11 forwards, 7 defense and 2 goaltenders signed.

The Rangers too have plenty of Cap Space with over $11.5M projected to be available even before the long term absences of Marian Gaborik and Mike Sauer are taken into account.

Of course both teams could find themselves in a different position when the dust settles on the most recent CBA negotiations, but if it’s anything like last time, and deal will likely include a mechanism to allow teams to accommodate any Salary Cap adjustments.

Thorton, who turned 33 earlier this month, has two more years left on his current contract and has all the power in his hands over when and where he gets dealt, if at all.  The Rangers could possibly offer up Derek Stepan and prospects for Thornton, but would have less leverage over the Sharks than they had over the Blue Jackets.

Bottom line, the speculation makes little sense for the Rangers at this point, and they’d be better off investing their time and efforts elsewhere.

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