Ramblings: Thornton Stays In San Jose, Neal Goes To Calgary, O’Reilly In Buffalo – July 3

Michael Clifford

2018-07-03

It was always a near-certainty that Joe Thornton would return to the Sharks on a similar deal as last year and he signed on of those Monday afternoon. It’s just a one-year deal with a $5-million cap hit.

Thornton, now 39 years old, is coming off significant knee problems in each of the last two years. You hate to say this might be it, but it’s a wonder how many years he has left given all these issues.

It’ll be curious to see Thornton’s usage. After the acquisition of Evander Kane, the trio of Kane, Joe Pavelski, and Joonas Donskoi was downright dominant in limited ice time together. The duo of Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture seem like a lock to stay together, so will Thornton be used in a lesser role at five-on-five? Or will he be right back to the top line, pushing Donskoi down the lineup? Can Thornton play over 18 minutes a night at this point? Questions without answers just yet.

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James Neal signed a five-year deal with the Flames. You can read Dobber’s analysis here.

All I’ll say about this for now is that Calgary did a good job bolstering their forward depth (even if it was at the expense of an elite defenceman) but this could be a headache for lineup combinations all year. It seemed like Elias Lindholm was the guy to slot with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, and then quotes came out that Matthew Tkachuk might play the right side. Now, throw Neal into the mix. Outside of Monahan/Gaudreau on the top line, and Mikael Backlund centering the second line, I’m not sure if any particular combination is going to be reliable.       

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Well, that was quite the Free Agent Frenzy weekend.

We are still waiting for some significant dominoes to fall. The big name is