Ex-Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke says he pushed hard to acquire Thornton when the Boston Bruins made him available in 2005.
"We were in hard on Joe Thornton when Boston traded him and we made what we thought was a really outstanding offer the morning he got dealt," Burke told SN650's "Starting Lineup" on Thursday.
Burke added, "We didn't know that they had already committed to the trade with San Jose. But we stepped up in Anaheim and made what I considered to be a huge offer, and a better offer than Boston got."
Thornton, who was originally selected first overall by the Bruins in 1997, was traded midseason in 2005-06 in a surprising blockbuster deal. The Sharks sent forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart to Boston in exchange for the then-26-year-old Thornton.
Despite the Bruins' sizeable return, Burke believes his offer was superior and said that Boston didn't shop Thornton enough. While Burke didn't disclose the exact details, he said he protected five players on the Ducks and the rest were on the table.
"We had a pretty good team in Anaheim, guys. It was a pretty good team," Burke said. "So if you're only protecting five, that sixth player is pretty darn good. ... We were talking a meaningful player, a first-round pick, and a couple of kids. And they made the deal with San Jose instead. I was really choked about that."
The trade paid immediate dividends for the Sharks. Thornton took home the Hart and Art Ross Trophies the same season he was traded, putting up 29 goals and 125 points in 81 games. Burke and the Ducks won the Stanley Cup the following season.
Thornton, now 40, has amassed 1,055 points in 1,104 games with San Jose.