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Joe Thornton signs three-year extension with Sharks

Oct 16, 2010, 1:38 PM EDT

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Sharks captain Joe Thornton was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, but it appears that he’s not about to go hitting the open market. The Sharks announced this afternoon that they’ve signed Thornton to a three-year contract extension worth $21 million.

Thornton taking a deal worth $7 million a year is a rather captain-like thing to do considering his current cap hit is good for $7.2 million. It’s just a $200,000 difference, but as other teams have proven this off-season, every little bit counts when it comes time to get under the cap.

Some were curious that Thornton was named the team captain when there was the outside possibility that he could leave at the end of the year as a free agent, but it’s clear that that was never going to happen. Thornton’s career in San Jose since being dealt there by Boston has been loaded with personal statistical success including a league MVP trophy, but the Stanley Cup continues to elude him. If Thornton wasn’t feeling the pressure to win before, he certainly is now that he’s the team’s leader on the ice and he’s going to be there for the next few years.

An interesting note to take thanks to CapGeek, it sets up the off-season after the 2013-2014 season as a fascinating one for the Sharks as each of Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Doug Murray each have their contracts come to an end. That makes for one hell of a free agent class just from one team and with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to deal with, who even knows if all those guys will still be there.

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