BOSTON (CP) - Joe Thornton committed his future to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, agreeing to a $20-million US, three-year deal and forgoing unrestricted free agency next summer.
A source said the 26-year-old Bruins captain will earn $6.666 million a season, close to the $7 million a year Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla signed for last week.
"Joe's signing was a priority and we are again making clear how much he means to this franchise," Bruins GM Mike O'Connell said in a statement. "He is among the upper echelon of players in our league and he just continues to get better."
The Bruins had hoped to sign him to a longer deal, on Tuesday offering a $32.5-million, five-year deal - an average of $6.5 million per season. That was up from the $25-million, five-year deal offered last month.
The three-year deal will allow Thornton to become an unrestricted free agent when he's 29.
Both sides were under pressure to get a deal done. Monday is the deadline to accept qualifying offers before they expire. If Thornton had accepted his one-year, $5.13-million qualifier, the new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that the Bruins and Thornton could not have talked about an extension until Jan. 1.
Teammate Sergei Samsonov accepted his one-year, $2.77-million qualifying offer Wednesday, bringing the Russian one step closer to unrestricted free agency next summer. That is unless he can sign a long-term deal with the Bruins after Jan. 1.
Samsonov's decision likely put even more pressure on the Bruins to try and get Thornton under contract, not wanting to lose both star forwards next summer.
Thornton, a six-foot-four, 225-pound native of St. Thomas, Ont., has scored 20-plus goals in each of his last five NHL seasons.
He led the club in scoring three times, including each of the last two NHL seasons and in 2002-03 he finished third overall in the NHL's scoring race with a career-high 101 points.
He led the Bruins in scoring in 2003-04 with 23 goals and 50 assists in 77 games.
Named Boston captain on Oct. 8, 2002, Thornton comes into this season with 160 goals, 261 assists and 611 penalty minutes in 509 career NHL games.