Oct 14, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Shawn Thornton (22) skates with the puck during the second period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins will not re-sign Shawn Thornton

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The Boston Bruins have elected not to re-sign longtime center Shawn Thornton and will allow him to hit free agency, the team announced Monday afternoon. GM Peter Chiarelli met with the veteran and informed him of the decision recently.

Thornton, 36, has played in Boston for the past seven years, winning a Stanley Cup with the team in 2011 and an Eastern Conference title two years later. He signed with the Bruins in 2007 after winning the Cup the previous season with the Anaheim Ducks, quickly establishing himself as one of the most physical forwards on a Boston team loaded with size.

Anchoring the fourth line for seven seasons with the Bruins, Thornton never put up big numbers but often made his presence felt. He’s always been among the team leaders in penalty minutes despite having otherwise middling numbers. His career-highs in goals (10), assists (10) and points (20) all came during the Bruins’ Cup-winning season in 2011.

Last season, he played 64 games and recorded five goals and three assists.

This likely doesn’t spell the end for Thornton, who will garner interest from other teams around the league looking for an experienced fourth-line center. Having spent the past few years playing on one of the best teams in the league, he’s proven to be effective in that role, though the enforcer-style play he’s known for has increasingly been removed from the game.

Thornton will hit free agency on July 1, when teams will officially be able to begin wooing him with possible contract offers. Before playing with Anaheim and Boston, Thornton played intermittently for the Chicago Blackhawks from 2002-06.

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