Joe Thornton Undecided on Returning for 25th NHL Season After Panthers' Playoff Loss

Erin WalshMay 25, 2022

MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 29:  Joe Thornton #19 of the Florida Panthers skates against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at Centre Bell on April 29, 2022 in Montreal, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Florida Panthers 10-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Joe Thornton and the Florida Panthers fell short in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a second-round sweep to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and now it's unclear if "Jumbo Joe" will get another shot at a Stanley Cup.

The Ontario native, who will turn 43 on July 2, told reporters Wednesday that he hasn't decided whether to return to the NHL for a 25th season in 2022-23.

"My wife was kind of asking me last night," Thornton said. "And really, I have no plans. It's kind of exciting that way. I came here to win a championship, and we fell short of that. But I think the Florida Panthers are going to be good for a long time. It's exciting around here now."

Thornton signed a one-year deal with the Panthers ahead of the 2021-22 campaign because he thought the team would give him his best shot to win a Stanley Cup. 

Thornton told reporters at the time:

"Well, I watched the playoffs last year, Florida-Tampa, and it was a great series and I love their team and it left a big impression on me. I talked to [Panthers general manager] Bill [Zito], I talked to 'Lou' [special adviser Roberto Luongo], I talked to [coach] Joel Quenneville, and they were just so excited about their team, what they're building down there and just thought I'd be a great fit with this group. My family was behind me. I have two young kids who are on board in meeting the players and they're excited. But talking with Bill, Lou and Joel, it was an easy decision after that." 

During the regular season, the Panthers were the best team in the NHL, finishing with a 58-18-6 record to earn the Presidents' Trophy with 122 points. They set franchise records in goals, wins and points and looked primed to make a deep run in the playoffs. 

The Panthers eliminated the Washington Capitals in the first round but had an incredibly disappointing performance against the Lightning. 

Thornton appeared in only one playoff game—the Game 4 loss to the Lightning. He was a minus-one in 6:18 and didn't record a shot. 

He appeared in just 34 regular-season games, tallying five goals and five assists. 

That said, Thornton could be a solid locker room presence for a Stanley Cup contender next season. In 1,714 games with the Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins, the centerman tallied 430 goals and 1,109 assists. 

Thornton is also a four-time All-Star and won the Hart Memorial Trophy and Art Ross Trophy during the 2005-06 campaign, when he tallied 29 goals and 96 assists in 81 games for the Bruins and Sharks. 

Thornton is sixth in regular-season history in games played and seventh in assists. He also ranks 12th with 1,539 points.

When Thornton does decide to retire, there's little doubt he will be enshrined into the Hockey Hall of Fame.