Originally posted on NY Rangers Blog  |  Last updated 6/18/14

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 12: Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks awaits a face off during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on January 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Sharks defeated the Coyotes 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. An All-Star forward and former Hart Trophy winner could be potentially forcing a move to the New York Rangers. It’s not quite at Martin St. Louis levels, but it seems that San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is not being very felixible as GM Doug Wilson explores the trade market. MacLean “it seems that right now Joe Thornton only really wants to go to 1 team & that’s NY [Rangers]. That’s the scuttlebutt” — Hope_Smoke (@Hope_Smoke) June 18, 2014 “MacLean” refers to former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager and current Sportsnet analyst Doug MaClean, who, given his experience in hockey, undoubtedly has concrete sources around the league.   Martin St. Louis was proactive is seeking a trade and basically forced Tampa Bay’s hand. The Thornton situation is largely different. San Jose management was extremely unhappy with their team blowing a 3-0 series lead against the Kings in the first round and conducting yet another early playoff exit. The result has been Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson promising big changes, which he doubled down on yesterday by calling the Sharks a “tomorrow team” and implying that they were preparing for a rebuild of sorts. It’s a confusing stance by Wilson considering he signed 34-year-old forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau to multi-year extensions literally months ago. Nonetheless, they’re obvious trade candidates, given their age and the direction the Sharks apparently want to go. Wilson didn’t exactly try to downplay the idea, refusing to comment on the two forwards and simply saying that conversations would “stay private.” The Rangers have plenty of young talent – McDonagh, Stepan, Kreider, Zuccarello, etc. – which could allow them to still be in a good spot five years from now, but make no mistake; the Rangers are in “win now” mode. Joe Thornton is no longer a 100-point, Hart Trophy superstar, but he’s still a bonafide first-liner center. He had 76 points in 82 games last season and would probably do similar damage alongside the Rangers’ talented wingers. He particularly has history with Rick Nash, centering him during the Olympics for Canada and playing with him at HC Davos in Switzerland during the 2012-2013 lockout. The big problem is potentially acquiring Thornton, and that’s a problem on multiple fronts. The theme for this offseason, much more than any other offseason, has been how the Rangers are going to fit the players they want to keep while staying within the limits of the salary cap. Adding Joe Thornton’s $6.75M cap hit to the mix only further complicates things. Still, it’s possible. Making Derick Brassard part of the package, for instance, would cut the net cap cost of acquiring Thornton in half. While Brassard is a good center on the right side of 30, he’s not at all the caliber player that Joe Thornton is. Perhaps the Sharks would eat a bit of the cap hit as well in order to make the math work. The Rangers would have to be somewhat thrifty in other areas (goodbye Stralman, Boyle, and possibly Pouliot), but it leaves enough wiggle room to still build a complete roster. The perhaps bigger obstacle, though, is finding a suitable trade. The Rangers have really broken the bank to bring in Nash, Clowe, and St. Louis the last two seasons. The result is a decent but unspectacular prospect pool that lacks much high-upside talent. They also lack first round picks this year and for 2015. In other words, what the Sharks would push to acquire in a deal for Thornton, the Rangers mostly do not own. The one saving grace is, again, Thornton potentially invoking his NTC to only allow a move to New York and thus limiting San Jose’s options. If they’re truly set on rebuilding and changing culture and all that good stuff, then perhaps even a “pretty good” offer from New York might be enough. Brassard, Kristo, and a draft pick is an offer that would surely get beat by a number of teams, but given the circumstances San Jose’s hands are tied. Would they rather keep Thornton in that situation? Perhaps. And that’s the big difference between Thornton and St. Louis. Thornton isn’t the one actively seeking a trade. He’s, if MaClean is right, merely singling out New York as the only place he’d waive his no-trade clause to go, and presumably would be perfectly happy to stay in San Jose otherwise. We’ll find out, though. Glen Sather’s resources are limited, but sufficient. And if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that nobody negotiates trades and utilizes the media to apply pressure and get his way quite like Slats can.   Follow Me On Twitter: @Herman_NYRBlog Email Me: AdamNYRBlog@gmail.com
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