Earlier on Tuesday, we noted that free agent center Joe Thornton was getting tire kicks and sniffs and long looks from several teams around the NHL.
It all felt like something that could leverage the San Jose Sharks into giving him the contract that he’s looking for – a three-year deal that one assumes would be his last NHL contract – but there was no telling if that interest would put a scare in GM Doug Wilson.
Now, the potential for Joe Thornton to bring his talents to Los Angeles? That’s potentially scary for the Sharks.
Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider spelled out the scenario on Tuesday:
LAK has always assumed that the team would communicate with Thornton in the absence of a new contract with the San Jose Sharks, based not only on his relationships with several figures in Kings management – more on that in a moment – but because of what the Kings’ needs are this particular off-season. Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.
While it seems like every team in the NHL has someone on the roster or in management that has a relationship with Thornton, the Kings have a few interesting connections with Jumbo. There’s general manager Rob Blake, a former teammate with the Sharks; there’s senior advisor Mike O’Connell, his former GM with the Boston Bruins; and Rosen said Glen Murray, who works in player development with the Kings, is a close friend of Thornton’s.
The issue here, as per usual, is the cap. The Kings have about $10 million in space. They also have four defensemen under contract at the moment.
Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion had a lengthy conversation with Los Angeles compatriot Rob Blake during the later rounds of the draft. There is one move that could make sense for both sides: Dustin Brown for Dion Phaneuf. Both have the same cash remaining — $25.5 million. Brown’s AAV is lower ($5.875 million to Phaneuf’s $7 million), but he has five years left on his contract to Phaneuf’s four. The Senator defenceman can go to Los Angeles, but I’m not sure if Brown’s list allows him to go to the Canadian capital.
This wouldn’t really solve any financial issues regarding a potential Thornton deal, but it would be a creative way to get Brown off the books.
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