Thomas had recently informed the Bruins, the media and fans of his plans through a Facebook posting that included this excerpt:
At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected. That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F's.
Friends, Family, and Faith."
Thomas is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2013-14.
While Thornton admitted he was surprised by the 2011 Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner’s decision, he didn’t take it as a slight toward him and his teammates.
“A little bit but not in a good or bad way, but just that I didn’t expect it,” Thornton said. “I don’t talk to him on a personal level. So I wouldn’t have been privy to that information anyway. But whatever he needs to do is what’s best for him and I don’t take it as something against the team. He did a lot for this organization and a lot for this city and I think that we should be thankful for that. So good for him and I hope he’s happy with that decision.”
Thornton said he believes the team will be fine with the decision because it needs its goalie and all players to be focused on the task at hand.
“If he needs some personal time then I’d rather have somebody coming in with their head and heart into it than just coming in and going through the motions,” Thornton said. “If Timmy feels that his head was going to be elsewhere for the whole year, then we probably wouldn’t have wanted that anyway.”
Thornton said he expects goalie Tuukka Rask to be focused and ready to assume the duties of being the team’s No. 1 goalie.
“I have a lot of confidence in Tuukka already,” Thornton said. “We’re very close and I think his numbers have been unbelievable so far in his career and I’m sure he’s happy to get the chance to start this year. I see him really taking the bull by the horns.”
Thornton also credited general manager Peter Chiarelli for remaining focused after Thomas’ announcement, signing unrestricted free agents-to-be Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell Monday and also Daniel Paille on June 1.
“I think over the last five years that I’ve been here he has done the best job he can to ice a competitive team, and obviously built that team into a championship team in 2011,” Thornton said of his general manager. “We all believe in him and there’s never been any doubt in his ability to put together a winning team.”
The Kelly and Paille signings mean that Thornton will have his linemates back and the team’s fourth line remains intact for at least the next two seasons, after which Thornton could become an unrestricted free agent.
“I’m estatic,” Thornton said of the signings. “There’s a feel between the three of us and we don’t need to tell each other where we’re going or what we’re doing. When you have that chemistry, it’s huge because it takes a while to create that, and we won’t have to go through that process again. We’re very comfortable with each other on and off the ice so it’s great to keep our line intact.”