Thornton to divide time between playing in Europe and NHL

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Joe Thornton says he will be splitting his time during the 2020-21 hockey season between HC Davos of the Swiss league and the National Hockey League's Toronto Maple Leafs, who he signed a one-year deal with on Friday.

The 41-year-old former first overall pick will begin the season with Davos before switching to the NHL, which has set January 1 as its target return date after a pandemic-disrupted 2019-2020 season.

The Leafs announced Friday they signed Thornton to a one-year, $700,000 contract, one day after Thornton said he was joining Davos.

"I've been watching this, all the 'buzz', the questions about what's going to happen to me," Thornton told Tages-Anzeiger, a Swiss German-language newspaper on Thursday.

"The desire to continue playing (in the NHL) is there. I will be able to prepare myself well for it here in Switzerland."

Thornton is the NHL's active leader in both assists and points and has an impressive international resume, representing Canada numerous times and winning one Olympic gold medal (2010) and two gold at the World Championships (2004, 2016).

Thornton registered 31 points in 70 games this past season with the San Jose Sharks.

He was selected by Boston with the first overall pick of the 1997 draft. In 1,636 games with Boston and San Jose, he has 1,089 assists and 1,509 points. He ranks seventh overall in assists, ninth in games and 14th in points in NHL history.

In 2005, the Bruins traded Thornton to San Jose for three players, Germany's Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.