NHL Rumors: Analyzing Buzz Surrounding Joe Thornton, Zach Parise and More

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2020

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) skates during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

The NHL trade deadline came and went Monday, and while that led to several moves for many of the NHL's 31 teams, there were even more players who stayed put despite being the subject of rumors.

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie all remained with their current teams, but buzz suggests that they all could have been on the move if the circumstances were slightly different.

Here are the latest rumors surrounding Thornton, Parise and Barrie, and a breakdown of where they nearly ended up on deadline day.

     

Joe Thornton

Of all the players who were not traded prior to the deadline, Thornton may be the biggest surprise given his age and where the Sharks are in the standings.

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The 40-year-old Thornton is an impending unrestricted free agent, and the Sharks are the second-worst team in the Western Conference this season at 56 points, so a miraculous run down the stretch to earn a playoff spot is highly unlikely.

Thornton was linked to multiple teams ahead of the deadline. According to Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, the Sharks discussed trade scenarios with Thornton, and the Boston Bruins were one of the teams mentioned.

The future Hall of Famer spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Bruins before a trade to San Jose, and a return to Boston would have been a huge story.

Also, Kevin Kurz of The Athletic reported that the Dallas Stars were "pushing hard" for Thornton and that Thornton was willing to accept a trade there. It never materialized, however.

Dallas would have been a good fit since it is in playoff contention and rosters Thornton's former Sharks teammate Joe Pavelski.

After the deadline passed, Thornton said that he was disappointed he wasn't traded because of his desire to win a Stanley Cup before he retires, per NHL.com's Adam Kimelman: "I wanted a shot. I've been hunting this thing down for 22 years and I wanted another shot at it, and I wanted to get something (for the Sharks) in return. But it just didn't work out. Back to the grind. That's how it is."

Despite his age, Thornton suggested that this isn't his last season, as he said it's "not my last hurrah" and "I still think I've got years left."

With that in mind, Thornton could look to cut out the middle man and sign with a contender during the offseason in an effort to finally win an elusive Cup.

Thornton has only four goals and 23 assists for 27 points in 63 games this season, but his size and experience still make him a useful player, and teams like the Bruins and Stars may regret not having him come playoff time.

      

Zach Parise

The New York Islanders improved on deadline day by acquiring forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators, but they almost landed another significant piece in Zach Parise.

According to Michael Russo of The Athletic, the Islanders and Minnesota Wild were deep in trade conversations that would have resulted in forward Andrew Ladd and other pieces heading to Minnesota for Parise.

Russo noted that similar conversations were held during the offseason, but taking on Ladd's contract was the sticking point.

Ladd is signed through the 2022-23 season at a cap hit of $5.5 million. He is already 34 years old and has appeared in only two games for the Isles this season after playing in just 26 games last season.

Parise's contract isn't ideal, either, as the 35-year-old carries a $7.5 million cap hit through 2024-25, but he is still a productive NHL player, unlike Ladd, with 21 goals and 16 assists for 37 points in 62 games this season. Parise also recorded a solid 61 points in 74 games last season.

Parise likely would have been a great fit on the island since his two-way game could have worked in head coach Barry Trotz's system. Also, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello selected Parise in the first round of the 2003 NHL draft with the New Jersey Devils, so he is aware of what Parise brings to the table.

Had the Isles been able to make the trade happen, they would have moved an albatross of a contract and a player for another bad contract that lasts longer. Even so, Parise would have at least increased New York's chances of a deep playoff run this season in theory.

The Islanders currently own the first wild card in the Eastern Conference with 77 points, and Parise undoubtedly could have come in handy during the postseason given his 97 career games of playoff experience.

       

Tyson Barrie

The Leafs reportedly set a big asking price for Barrie, and when it was not met, they made the decision to keep him despite his status as an impending free agent.

According to Bob McKenzie on TSN radio (h/t Gavin Lee of Pro Hockey Rumors), the Leafs wanted a package similar to what the St. Louis Blues got for Kevin Shattenkirk in 2017, which was a first-round pick, second-round pick and two prospects.

McKenzie noted that the offers were closer to the ones made for Sami Vatanen and Erik Gustafsson on deadline day, which is why no deal was made.

The 28-year-old Barrie topped the 50-point mark in each of the past two seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, and he is close to that pace this season with the Leafs, as he has registered five goals and 32 assists for 37 points in 64 games.

Trading away Barrie is something Toronto likely could have overcame if Morgan Rielly is able to return from injury, but there was no point in doing so if the return was strong.

The Leafs are third in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division with 74 points, but they are very much fighting for their playoff lives, and trading a key piece like Barrie away wouldn't have helped the cause.

It is fair to question if the Maple Leafs are good enough on the defensive end to do damage in the playoffs if they are able to make it, but Barrie's ability to rack up points on the power play is something that would have been tough to replace.