David Petrie, writing at The Hockey Writers earlier this month, offered his take on the worst signings of NHL Free Agency as of July 3rd. At that point, Joe Thornton had signed with the San Jose Sharks for a year at $8M. Given what Thornton did last season, his name seemed destined for inclusion in a lot of lists that torched NHL GM's for their decisions, especially long lists. However, in the case of Petrie, he didn't include Thornton in the six players he listed.

Petrie's list included Patrick Marleau, Nick Bonino, Carey Price, Dan Girardi, Dimitry Kulikov, and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Certainly there are some questionable contracts in there, especially Marleau with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, Thornton's contract and the fact that it might send San Jose to a last-place or second-last-place finish in the Pacific Division next year can't be ignored.

Thornton's most recent stats

Thornton's production nosedived in 2016/17. He appeared in 79 games and he had a career low for goals for any season where he played at least 60 games. His assists went way down too as he tallied 43, a low for him since 2000/01 when a 60-game minimum is used again. Should we be overly critical of Thornton's production? Not when you factor in his age as he is in his late 30s. However, why San Jose felt like offering $8M when he might be done as a prolific scorer is a great question. Usually players have to prove themselves in contract years to get that kind of money.

With Thornton, he unperformed in his contract year and got paid anyways.

San Jose's contract with Thornton might have escaped some criticism because it's a one-year deal. If, for example, Patrick Marleau stinks it up in Toronto next season, the Maple Leafs will be on the hook for three years. If Thornton doesn't earn $8M then at least the contract is one-and-done.

But $8M is the going rate for an amazing young player that might have 20 years of NHL playing ahead of him. For instance, the buzz with Leon Draisaitl is that he will get something like $8M to $10M per season when his contract negotiations conclude.

$8M could be handcuffing

If Thornton's goal-depleted 50 points from last season is a sign of things to come, then the Sharks could be in for a poor year.

Don't be surprised if they finish out of the playoffs and towards the bottom of the Pacific Division. In the zero-sum world of NHL contracts, a bad contract for one team is good news for another. Look for the Sharks to underachieve next season with Anaheim, Calgary, and Edmonton staking claims to the three divisional playoff spots.

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