Thornton open to joining Leafs, Canucks

Soon-to-be-former Boston Bruin Shawn Thornton becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and would be open to joining the Toronto Maple Leafs or Vancouver Canucks. (Winslow Townson/AP)

Soon-to-be-former Boston Bruin Shawn Thornton is open to joining the Toronto Maple Leafs or Vancouver Canucks when the veteran enforcer becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced Monday he would not re-sign Thornton, who has been with the team since joining them as a UFA in 2007. On Tuesday, Thornton discussed the potential of signing with a team north of the border when he hits the open market.

“It’s sad to leave [Boston], but I’m excited for whatever the next venture may be, wherever I end up,” Thornton told Jeff Blair on Sportnset 590 The Fan Tuesday. “Hopefully these next couple years I can go on and help another team take it to the next level. I know skillwise I’m not going to get 50 goals and be a timely scorer, but hopefully the leadership and stuff and the experience will help somebody else out.”

LISTEN: Shawn Thornton talks not watching the Stanley Cup Final, his 2013-14 season, leaving the Bruins and free agency

The Leafs have just seven returning forwards currently under contract, and filling out their bottom two lines is one area for Dave Nonis and company to address in the off-season.

Thornton was drafted by the Leafs in the seventh round (190th overall) of the 1997 draft and spent four seasons with the team’s AHL affiliate, St. John’s Maple Leafs, although he never suited up for the big club. Another connection to the Leafs: Thornton won a Stanley Cup with head coach Randy Carlyle in 2006-07, when the two were with the Anaheim Ducks.

“I grew up right around the corner, so I was always a fan of the Blue and White growing up,” said Thornton, who hails from Oshawa, Ont.

Thornton won’t fetch a high salary, which makes him a viable option for many teams, including the Leafs and Canucks. He’s coming off a two-year contract that paid him $1.1 million per season, and he’s not expected to get a significant raise.

“It’s not all dollars and cents for me — I mean, businesswise it is for teams, for whoever signs me — but I did learn one thing in Boston… it’s about the fit,” Thornton explained. “Boston wasn’t the most money I was offered [in 2007] but the city fit, and that made life a lot more enjoyable away from the rink too.”

Thornton, who turns 37 on July 23, registered five goals, three assists and 74 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Bruins this season. In 559 regular-season NHL games Thornton has 38 goals, 88 points and 906 penalty minutes.

“I like the fact that I can go out and play eight to 12 minutes a night and contribute in other ways,” he said. “The fighting, sticking up for my teammates, that’s been there since I was a kid. That’s not going away.”

In addition to the Leafs, Thornton also had some favourable things to say about the Canucks organization.

Thornton knows new Canucks GM Jim Benning from his time with the Bruins.

“I love Mr. Benning, him and his whole family,” Thornton told News1130 in Vancouver Tuesday. “If he gives me a shout, I will be more than happy to talk to him.”

The two-time Stanley Cup champ added that he grew up admiring former Canucks captain and new team president Trevor Linden. He also said that the intense 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Bruins and Canucks wouldn’t impact his decision on whether or not to consider Vancouver as a potential landing spot.

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