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Could the one and only "Jumbo" Joe Thornton be coming back East?

According to ProHockeyTalk, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of about six teams in the mix to trade for the services of the 34-year-old centerman and Sharks captain, who just completed his ninth season with the San Jose Sharks.

See you soon? Could Thornton be eyeballing a return to the (new) Atlantic Division? (via foxsports.com)

As the previous eight seasons have gone, this past year again finished as a monumental disappointment for the team from Northern California, as they blew a 3-0 series lead to their hated rivals and currently-up-2-0-in-the-Stanley-Cup-Final LA Kings in Round 1 back in April.

Thornton signed a three-year, $20 million contract extension back in January, a deal that gives Thornton a $6.75 cap hit each year until the end of the 2016-17 season. As if the massive amount of cash due Thornton's way in the next three years isn't problem enough, Thornton also has a no-movement clause, but if presented with the opportunity to play with a team like the Maple Leafs, it'd be hard for Jumbo Joe to pass up the chance.

Where many teams would have an issue fitting Thornton's $6.75 hit under their salary cap (like the Boston Bruins) the Maple Leafs would not; they have just a tick over $22 million in cap space to work with this summer.

So if Joe Thornton is in, who is out in Toronto? TSN's Darren Dreger tweeted back in May that the Leafs were in fact shopping some of their young talent, including wonder-talent/center Nazem Kadri and defenseman Jake Gardiner. Both players could get the trade done for both teams, if not the two together then some sort of package that includes players and draft picks.

With a team as consistently loaded as the Sharks are every year with the individual and team point totals to back it up, the Sharks always find themselves falling flat on their face when the next step is there for them to take. With their latest embarrassment coming to fruition to kill their season this year, many expected heads to roll at the Shark Tank.

Instead, we've seen the complete opposite. Coach Todd McLellan is still employed. General manager Doug Wilson is also still employed. One player from last year's roster. Dan Boylehas moved on, with his services being traded to the New York Islanders last week.

However, it seems much bigger changes could in fact be coming down the pike for the Sharks. If the Leafs get their man in Jumbo Joe, it would be excellent for business in re-injecting the Bruin/Maple Leaf rivalry that has died out a bit with Tyler Seguin no longer playing in Boston. I just can't wait for the "Thank you, Jum-bo!" chants to rain down from the Garden seats.

Mark Burke 6/08/2014 01:50:00 PM Edit

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