Joe Thornton is practicing with HC Davos of National League, the top professional league in Switzerland, while the unrestricted free agent forward decides on his NHL future.
The 42-year-old scored 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 44 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season after signing a one-year, $700,000 contract Oct. 16. He missed 10 games with a fractured rib from Jan. 22-Feb. 13.
Thornton, who has played 23 NHL seasons, scored one goal in a seven-game loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup First round.
HC Davos begins its season Sept. 11; the NHL season begins Oct. 12.
“This came so sudden, I really haven’t had time to think about it,” Thornton said June 2 after Toronto was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “First and foremost I have to be a dad for a little bit here. But yeah, I feel really, really, healthy and really, really, good … And that’s a good sign.”
Thornton has a 10-year-old daughter, Ayla, and a 7-year-old son, River.
“It was hard,” Thornton said. “… My focus has to turn to [my children] right now. It’s a good feeling. I can’t wait to spend a lot of time with them.”
Thornton is No. 14 on the NHL all-time scoring list with 1,529 points (425 goals, 1,104 assists) with the Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and Boston Bruins, and is sixth in games played with 1,680. He has scored 134 points (32 goals, 102 assists) in 186 playoff games. Thornton has played the second-most regular-season games in NHL history without winning the Stanley Cup, behind former teammate Patrick Marleau (1,779).
Although the Maple Leafs, who have qualified for the postseason each of the past five seasons, have not won a round since 2004, Thornton said he likes Toronto’s chances.
“These guys realize the expectations are different around here now and that’s a good thing,” Thornton said. “Moving forward, this group has a lot of great pieces, a lot of great people here and it’s going to move forward from here for sure.”
Thornton previously practiced and played with HC Davos, including prior to last season when he scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 12 games with them. He also played for them in 2004-05 when the NHL season was cancelled, and in 2012-13 during the NHL lockout.