Thornton declined the offer, but told LeBrun via text message that it was a nice gesture.
“It really was,” Thornton said. “I couldn’t do this to him. He really is a special guy. ”
Spezza told LeBrun that he had “too much respect for him not to offer it.”
Thornton will wear the number 97 next season, according to a tweet posted by the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Spezza and Thornton are the two oldest players in the Maple Leafs.
Spezza, 37, has scored nine goals and 16 assists in 58 games in 2019-20 with the Leafs, his first season in Toronto and 17th in the NHL. The Toronto native signed a one-year contract worth $ 700,000 earlier this month.
Thornton, a first overall pick in 1997, just completed his 22nd NHL season, scoring seven goals and adding 24 assists in 70 games with the San Jose Sharks. The Maple Leafs also signed him a minimum contract of $ 700,000 for the 2020-2021 season.