SAN JOSE — Joe Thornton had surgery Monday to repair torn ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee as an uncertain and potentially tumultuous offseason began for the Sharks and their most recognizable player.
Thornton was injured April 2 in a game against Vancouver and somehow returned to play exactly two weeks later in Game 3 of the Sharks’ opening round playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers.
Thornton, who, like Patrick Marleau, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, played the final four games of the series with the injury and finished with two assists before the Sharks were eliminated on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to the Oilers in Game 6.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer was the first to reveal the nature of Thornton’s injury Monday morning and general manager Doug Wilson later said the 37-year-old forward would have surgery Monday afternoon.
“I’ve been in this business a long time,” Wilson said. “You see a player play with that type of injury tells you all you need to know about him.”
The potential time to rehabilitate after surgery to repair a torn ACL alone is up to six months, which would mean that Thornton would not be able to play again until right around the start of the 2017-18 regular season.
After his return, Thornton averaged about 15 minutes of ice time per game in his first two games back on April 16 and 18. In his final two games, Thornton skated a remarkable 22:08 in Game 5 and 22:01 in Game 6
Thornton downplayed the significance of the injury shortly after it happened. Monday he told reporters — before DeBoer and Wilson spoke — that the injury was “just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with.
“It was just unfortunate, the time of the year,” Thornton said. “That it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs, you got to deal with something like that.
“Hockey players are a different breed. There’s probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I’ll go get it checked out today and go from there.”
Marleau said he played the series with a broken left thumb and DeBoer said Tomas Hertl played with a broken foot. Joonas Donskoi suffered separated shoulders on two occasions this season, DeBoer said. Hertl also suffered his injury April 2 against Vancouver.
Marleau said he will not need surgery.
“It’s one of those things where time will help it and get better,” Marleau said.
Thornton and Marleau each said Monday they want to return to San Jose.
“I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I’m a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” Thornton said. “Of course, I’d like to come. But we’ll have to see. I’m sure we’ll be talking. But right now I haven’t been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months.”