Sharks' Joe Thornton plans to return for next season 'and longer'

Joe Thornton has plenty of gas left in the tank.

The Sharks center and alternate captain on Tuesday confirmed he isn’t thinking about retirement just yet and wants to play another year. He could even see himself playing beyond 2020.

“Yeah, and longer,” Thornton told reporters at the NHL Awards’ media availability in Las Vegas. “Probably play another 10 years. We’ll wait and see, but I’m thinking five to 10 right now. I got nothing else going on.”

Thornton is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 — one day before his 40th birthday — and couldn’t specify if he’ll be back in San Jose for his 22nd NHL season, but said he intends to meet with Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, general manager Doug Wilson and coach Pete DeBoer so the two sides can “figure something out” for next season.

He’s in an even better negotiating position considering he isn’t dealing with any injury or rehabilitation this offseason.

“My body feels great, and it’s going to be the first time in a long time I don’t have to rehab in the summer,” Thornton said, “so I’m excited for that.”

Thornton, drafted first overall by the Bruins in 1997, finished eighth on the team with 51 points (16 goals and 35 points) in 73 regular-season games last season. He added four goals and six assists in 19 playoff games.

He is the NHL’s active leader in career assists (1,065) and points (1,478) in 1,566 games played.