Leafs left Joe Thornton to twist in the wind in free agency

This is no way to treat a future Hall of Famer.


Despite the fact that future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton was beloved by his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates, team management never felt him worthy of a phone call before bidding him adieu in free agency. Toronto Sun reporter Steve Simmons claims that neither Leafs GM Kyle Dubas nor Leafs President Brendan Shanahan contacted Thornton before or after free agency, leaving Thornton to wonder what his future held.

Simmons reports that the Leafs never informed Thronton they had any intention of bringing him back, but weren't explicit in their communication. For a 42 year old future Hall of Famer, you'd think the Leafs would have done better. Why leave the guy twisting in the wind like this? Personally I don't blame him for upping with the Florida Panthers.

From Simmons:  

What do old Canadians around retirement age do when winter hits? They go to Florida. Just like Joe Thornton has … For somewhat similar money, the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning signed Corey Perry. The Florida Panthers signed Thornton. One of these is a good signing … And I wonder: Do the Panthers have pro scouts and were they, in fact, watching the Leafs last season? … Say this much for Thornton: The Leafs players adored having him around last season. If he wasn’t the most popular player on the team, he was right up there … Thornton is the sixth Leaf to leave since the playoff disappointment versus Montreal. Gone from last season: Zach Hyman, Thornton, Nick Foligno, Frederik Andersen, Zach Bogosian and Alex Galchenyuk, who has yet to catch on anywhere in free agency. The Leafs never informed Thornton they had any intention of bringing him back … The off-seasons of Auston Matthews are never short on drama it seems: 2019, getting caught with disorderly conduct at his Scottsdale condo; 2020, testing positive for COVID-19 before so many athletes and fellow citizens followed suit; 2021, having wrist surgery, albeit late, so he won’t be fully ready for training camp. And before that, two summer visits from then coach Mike Babcock, just to make sure everything between them was right. And in between, the young man scored more goals than just about anyone else in the world.

Now, I'm not saying that the Leafs made a mistake by not re-signing Thornton, but they certainly made a mistake by not giving him the courtesy of a proper 'goodbye'. These sorts of things seem small in the moment, but they leave a lasting impression on players and word can get around about how you treat your employees. Thoughts?