Potential Offseason NHL Trades I: Joe Thornton to Philadelphia

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Potential Offseason NHL Trades I: Joe Thornton to Philadelphia
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I would never trade Joe Thornton, but losing a first round playoff series after winning the President’s Trophy left a bitter taste in Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson’s mouth.

There is no doubt he was frustrated, and he did not shy away from showing it.

The worst thing about the experience is that Joe Thornton still has not acknowledged his feelings about losing the series. Not exactly an encouraging sign for the leader of the league’s best team.

The most important thing about trading Thornton, is that you want to maximize your return. Doug Wilson understands that he stole Thornton from the Bruins three years ago, and knows that he could make that trade even more one-sided if he is able to make his team better for the present and future by trading him away.

What Wilson wants to avoid is shortchanging himself—which is what former Bruins GM Mike O’Connell did when he traded Thornton.

One potential destination for Thornton is Philadelphia. The Flyers are an organization filled with young talent, but are also good enough now to make a move in the Eastern conference.

However, they are still missing that one veteran presence that can give the team consistent scoring and experience. As much as Flyers fans would like to think that presence is Danny Briere, he is not.

Thornton would not need to be the center of the offense, because of the emergence of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and the abundance of NHL talent the team already possesses. This will relieve some scoring pressure from Thornton, and allow him to simply play his game. With Richards and Carter as established players in Philadelphia, Thornton could serve to compliment the two talents.

The Flyers would be a perfect fit for Thornton, because he would not have to be the face of the franchise. One of the problems that Thornton faced in Boston and San Jose was that he was always the one to face difficult questions after tough losses. He will still be faced with those questions, but with Richards as the savvy young captain, some of the weight will be lifted in pressure situations from the media.

In return for Thornton, Wilson should be able to retrieve Danny Briere, who the Flyers will no longer have use for if Thornton is coming their way, Joffrey Lupul, who is still under contract until 2012, but is making $4.25 million per season (more than Martin St. Louis) and is inconsistent, and James van Riemsdyk, who will have trouble finding meaningful minutes in Philadelphia with the emergence of Claude Giroux.

Both sides get a good chunk of what they need. The Flyers have one of the best crops of NHL talent, which allows them to make this move. In return, they get one of the best playmakers in this generation. Thornton and Richards would be among the best center duos in the league, and would propel the Flyers from the middle of the pack to an elite team in the East.

The Sharks maximize their return by acquiring one of the better prospects in the NHL. They also get Briere, who is on the downside of his career, but could potentially form a speedy top line with Patrick Marleau.

The most important thing about Briere is that he is a playoff performer. With the tutelage of Todd Mclellan, Joffrey Lupul, may perhaps reach his scoring potential that he showed signs of with the Ducks, the Oilers, and the Flyers.

Is this trade a possibility? If Doug Wilson makes a decision on tilt, it is the trade that makes the most sense.

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