As I sit here just after 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night it's hard to believe I'm typing the following sentence: the Boston Bruins have traded their franchise center, Joe Thornton, to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for center Wayne Primeau, left wing Marco Sturm and defenseman Brad Stuart.
While the Bruins web site has not confirmed the report as I write this, the Sharks web site has.
Look, I'm not naive. I thought the Bruins would likely try to make some kind of blockbuster, and even theorized on my radio show today that Stuart was probably available and could make a likely Boston target. But all along I thought that Sergei Samsonov would be a more likely trade target given his status as an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
The rumor mill got cranked up earlier this evening when all three San Jose players were involved in the Sharks' pre-game warmup in Dallas then inexplicably pulled off the ice prior to the start of the game. In fact, the Sharks dressed only 19 players in the Stars' game, nearly guaranteeing that something was up. San Jose came into tonight's game against the Stars having lost nine straight games (and are working their way to 10 straight as I write this, trailing 4-1 in the third period) and it seemed like both San Jose and Boston needed to do something to right their listing ships.
I had also begun hearing rumblings earlier today that the Bruins might actually have begun to think about the possibility of trading their team captain. I have no idea how long this deal has been in the works, or how hard it was to pull together, but it's fairly safe to say this was a bombshell in the hockey world tonight.
The Bruins are giving up the best player in the deal, by a long shot. Joe Thornton is a franchise player, and currently 13th on the NHL's scoring list. He is a lock for the Canadian Olympic Team in Italy in February and signed a new three-year contract during the off-season that paid him $6.6 million this year alone.
In exchange, the Bruins are receiving a smooth-skating, skilled defenseman in Stuart who was the third overall draft selection back in 1998. Sturm is a terrific skater who is also a strong defensive forward and a regular 20 goal scorer in the NHL. He was a first round pick (21st overall) in 1996. Primeau is a gritty checking line player who set career highs in goals (9), assists (20) and points (29) in 2003-04. He was also a first round pick (17th overall) in 1994.
The move is a shock, as has been the atrocious start to the season for the Bruins. The Joe Thornton Era is over in Boston. For those fans who have been decrying the team's lack of results during Thornton's tenure, I hope things get better now that he's gone. Great players have been traded and will be traded again in the future. Joe Thornton is one of those too.