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Joe Thornton back for 24th NHL season after signing with Florida Panthers

Joe Thornton back for 24th NHL season after signing with Florida Panthers
Former San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton, shown Nov. 9, 2018, had five goals and 15 assists in 44 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Veteran center Joe Thornton is set to return for his 24th NHL season after signing a one-year contract with the Florida Panthers on Friday.

The Panthers confirmed the length of the pact, but the team didn't reveal terms of the agreement. ESPN reported that Thornton will earn $750,000 on the deal, with no bonuses or incentives.

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"With more than 1,600 games played in the NHL, Joe will bring a wealth of experience to our locker room and lineup," Panthers general manager Bill Zito said in a news release. "His drive to succeed is unmistakable and we are thrilled that he chose to sign with our club and that he believes in what we are building here in South Florida."

The 42-year-old Thornton has been one of the most productive centers in league history. He currently ranks 14th on the career points list (1,529) and sits seventh in career assists (1,104) in 1,680 games between the Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks and Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Thornton told reporters Friday that he watched the Panthers' playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this year and came away impressed. Florida contacted the star forward weeks ago to try and add him to its lineup.

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"I see their team on paper, I watched their team last year. I love their team, and that's it," Thornton said during a news conference. "I love what they're building, and I'm excited to be part of it. But everything is about, ultimately, winning the Stanley Cup, and the Panthers are right there in my opinion.

"... The energy these guys bring every day, they want to work every day, they want to get better every day. I'm just really looking forward to joining them on the journey."

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After spending the past 15 years in San Jose, Thornton played last season for the Maple Leafs. He recorded five goals and 15 assists over 44 games for Toronto.

Thornton has been practicing with HC Davos of the Swiss National League this off-season.

"The body feels good, the mind feels good, and I knew pretty much after the season. I started training right away and I felt good," Thornton said. "Here we go again."

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