Shawn Thornton wasn’t sure he would get a chance to play next season. If a contract didn’t come, he said, so be it.
“I was prepared that, if no one wanted me and I was forced out, I was quite comfortable with the career I had,” the Panthers’ 38-year-old forward said.
Well, the Panthers wanted Thornton back.
He sure is happy about it, too.
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Last Thursday, the Panthers and Thornton agreed to a one-year contract extension, keeping him in Florida through the 2016-17 season.
The extension was brought up a few days after everything was completed. Thornton, happy to be in Florida and still playing, didn’t seem to be a hard sell.
“I was a little surprised to get it, very happy to get it,” Thornton said before Florida’s late game against Colorado Thursday night at Pepsi Center.
“It came together very quickly. But I come to the rink and prepare the same way. Nineteen years; I'm pretty lucky to have been able to go that long. I’ve said they’ll have to rip the skates off me and now I have another year.
“I'm happy. It helps pension-wise, helps the family. Everything is gravy now. I’ve been in a pretty good mood. I can’t complain about anything. There’s a little extra hop. Hopefully I can carry that onto the ice.”
Thornton, who came to the Panthers after being a fan favorite and Stanley Cup champion in Boston, admits he wasn’t sure what he was getting into when he signed with Florida in 2014.
The Panthers were coming off another season at the bottom of the standings, yet general manager Dale Tallon made sure he brought in some seasoned veterans — with experience hoisting the Cup — into his young locker room.
Thornton, who also won the Cup with Anaheim in 2006, was signed to a two-year deal.
“He’s been around a long time, played a lot of games in the minor leagues,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “No one wants to retire; you want to be forced out. He has a chance to come back, be an important guy for us.”
Jagr in third
Jaromir Jagr tied Gordie Howe for third on the NHL's all-time points list with his secondary assist on Erik Gudbranson’s first period goal Thursday.
Jagr passed to Sasha Barkov, who sliced a pass to a wide-open Gudbranson on the left side of the ice.
Howe had 1,850 career points in his legendary career. With that assist, Jagr pulled within 37 of Mike Messier for second on the NHL list.
This and that
▪ Jagr didn’t want to talk about not committing to the Czech Republic team for the World Cup of Hockey to be held in Toronto in September.
“My job is to play here. The World Cup is not my job,” he said.
▪ The Panthers were without newly acquired wingers Teddy Purcell and Jiri Hudler on Thursday but it appears both have cleared up their visa issues.
Purcell, acquired in a deal with Edmonton last Saturday, landed at Denver International Airport about an hour before the game began, yet didn’t make it to Pepsi Center in time for puck drop.
Hudler, brought in from Calgary, was scheduled to fly south on Friday and meet the team in Arizona.
Both players made their Florida debuts in Tuesday's 3-2 win at Winnipeg but were forced to stay behind in Canada until they could get their immigration issues settled. The two are expected to be in the lineup Saturday against the host Coyotes.
▪ With Hudler and Purcell out, Gallant had to continue his forward shuffle. Rookie winger Kyle Rau was up on Florida’s top line with Jagr and Barkov; defenseman Steven Kampfer centered the fourth line.
▪ Defenseman Jakub Kindl, brought in from Detroit, made his Florida debut after being a healthy scratch in Winnipeg.