UPDATE: Saturday, March 17 at 5:39 p.m. ET
Happy St. Patrick's Day to BOS's Shawn Thornton. Agreed to terms on a two-year extension worth $1.1M per year. #buysalottaguinness— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 17, 2012
The Boston Bruins and veteran forward Shawn Thornton are close on a new two-year contract, reports ESPN's Craig Custance.
Bruins and Shawn Thornton close to new two-year deal. He would have been free agent July 1.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) March 17, 2012
Thornton is one of nine Bruins players who will become unrestricted free agents on July 1 if not signed to a new contract before then.
Thornton is a very important player to the Bruins, and a lot of the impact he has on the team cannot be found by glancing at the stat sheet after games.
The veteran forward provides Boston with exceptional leadership and is a valuable locker room presence who the coaches and players all respect. When Thornton speaks, everyone listens. When the Bruins don't have the energy needed on a given night, Thornton will spark the team with fight or a solid shift that sets the physical tone for the Bruins.
This season, Thornton has four goals and eight assists for 12 points, and he leads the NHL in fighting majors with 19 as of March 16.
Back in October, Thornton expressed his desire to finish his NHL career with the Bruins, telling CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty:
"I want to play here as long as I can, and I want to retire here," the 34-year-old said. "I'm very happy being being a Bruin, being here. It's home now. I don't think I would feel right playing anywhere else right now."
Losing Thornton's leadership and strong fourth line play would have hurt the Bruins going forward, so hopefully, he and the team can finalize a deal to keep him in Boston for a few more seasons.
Nicholas Goss is a Boston Bruins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and was the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Boston.