The New York Rangers have two vacant center spots on their roster. This is a warning that if the team signs Joe Thornton like rumors say they might, they will regret it.
Even before Derek Stepan was traded and the New York Rangers fanbase was pushing him out the door like he was a useless fourth line plug, many were begging for the team to go after veteran center Joe Thornton, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. It almost seems like the fanbase is unanimously accepting this strategy–something that rarely ever happens in RangersTown.
And I couldn’t disagree with them anymore if I tried.
Joe Thornton is not a fit with this team and signing him could end up being yet another unmitigated contractual disaster on Broadway.
Thornton turns 38 years of age on Sunday. He was never a fast skater, and now he is coming off of ACL and MCL surgery. Those surgeries aren’t as big of a deal as they used to be due to farmaceutical advancements, but that still isn’t going to help out his cause.
Plus, while Thornton was a world class playmaker–and still isn’t too shabby at it–that isn’t what this roster needs. This team is bereft of goal scorers and needs to add one badly to replace Stepan, who wasn’t a goal scorer in his own right, but still has tallied 18 more goals than Thornton has over the last four seasons.
Thornton is very average defensively as well, and the fact that his faceoff percentage has dramatically declined over the past two seasons isn’t a good look either.
And perhaps the worst part of all of this is the fact that Thornton is reportedly looking for a three-year deal.
Giving a 38-year-old a three-year contract is just asking for disaster. If the Rangers, or any team, give Thornton a three-year contract and he retires before the deal is up, the team is responsible for his cap hit until the term is up. As the Rangers begin to “re-tool,” they can’t afford to have that additional dead weight on the roster.
It is also worth mentioning that I don’t think Thornton wants to leave the West Coast, much less the Sharks. On a one-year, $3.5 million contract Thornton would be a good signing for the team, but other than that, it makes no sense going forward.
Fans may point to the fact that Rick Nash and Thornton played on a line together during the Olympics and were very productive together. That was in the past, and Rick Nash has no future in New York past this year anyway, so what’s the point?
Growing up, ‘Jumbo Joe’ was one of my favorite players in the league. I would’ve loved to have him on my team. But at the end of the day, he’s not a top-line center anymore. Furthermore, he is certainly not a fit in Alain Vigneault’s north-south system.