BOSTON – Shawn Thornton said he was in “hope for the best/expect the worst” mode in the last few weeks when it came to a potential return to the Boston Bruins, and he finally got the bad news on Monday. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli met with Thornton and informed the fourth line enforcer that Boston wouldn’t be re-signing him to a contract, and that the 36-year-old could get a head start on unrestricted free agency that will begin on July 1.
Thornton appreciated getting the early word from Chiarelli, and had nothing but kind words about the Original Six organization he called home for the last seven years.
“I kind of put it at a coin flip over the last month as to whether I was coming back or not, so I had kind of talked myself into being prepared for either situation,” said Thornton, who was the most active Bruins off the ice with charitable endeavors, unpublicized visits to hospitals and generous donation of his time and goodwill to just about anybody that asked. “My first thought is that I was very fortunate. I had a very good seven years. From the first day when Cam called me to tell me how much of good fit I’d be for this town and this town would be for me, to the last day with Peter telling me face-to-face to give me a heads up, it’s been first class.
“I was very, very lucky to be a member of this organization, and be a part of this city too. We loved it here. It’s been amazing. It couldn’t have been any better. From the people [in Boston] to the style that the team played, everything was above and beyond what I could have expected.”
Thornton was a heart and soul player for the Black and Gold over the last seven years, and made up a fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille that was the NHL’s best over the last four years. He was a key player for the Bruins in their Cup Final win over the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, and part of a dominant fourth line performance in the second round vs. the Rangers in 2013.
Above and beyond all that Thornton was also a respected leader and highly influential personality in the Bruins dressing that brought toughness and attitude to a Bruins team always looking for more of both.
"I told him he was one of the most significant acquisitions we made - one, for the role that he played, two, for the person he is,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to the team’s website.
The team will be looking to go younger, faster and more multi-faceted with their fourth line moving forward, and that meant giving some of their Providence Bruins alums a good, long look in Thornton’s spot. Thornton said he was “lucky” to be a part of the Bruins organization for the past seven years, but luck doesn’t have much to do with a high character guy like No. 22 making it to the Cup Finals three times – and winning twice – in an honorable NHL career in the league’s toughest job.
The unrestricted free agent says he wants to play a couple more NHL seasons before entertaining thoughts of retirement, and he’s coming off a solid season that included five goals, eight points and 10 fighting majors.
“I feel better going into this offseason than I did last offseason health-wise,” said Thornton, who battled a couple of post-2013 playoff injuries that kept him from his normally prodigious offseason workout routine. “I don’t see why can’t keep playing for a couple of more years. My body is saying that I can keep playing for a few more years.
“With everything in my training I feel the same as I did four years ago. Last year was the hardest ever because I couldn’t train the way I wanted to. I feel like I can still contribute, and everybody was happy with the way I was playing when I was out there.”
The leadership, playoff experience and truculence component is something that could serve him well as a free agent to prospective NHL suitors, and slot Thornton in as an influential veteran on a talented young playoff team.