Former Maple Leaf Patrick Marleau’s Sudden Re-emergence

To build the team that the Toronto Maple Leafs ice this season, general manager Kyle Dubas had to do some heavy lifting. Issues had to be solved so that the team’s salary structure could fit under the upper limit of the salary cap. For that to happen, players had to be moved.

For Maple Leafs fans, obviously, that’s just part of the business of hockey these days. However, a number of players who had become fan favorites were among those who left.

Related: What Marleau Taught Marner & Matthews

Several popular Maple Leafs players went to other teams. Among them were Patrick Marleau, Jake Gardiner, Nazem Kadri, and a quartet of players who moved to the Ottawa Senators – some by trade and some as free agent signees – Connor Brown, Ron Hainsey, Nikita Zaitsev, and Tyler Ennis.

So, What’s Happened with Marleau?

In this post, I want to keep fans informed about what’s happening with Marleau. To begin, he signed with the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 8 to a one-year, $700,000 contract. Marleau last played for the Sharks in the 2016-17 season, scoring 27 goals and 19 assists, for 46 points.

Toronto Maple Leafs Patrick Marleau Andreas Johnsson
Former Toronto Maple Leaf Patrick Marleau celebrates with Andreas Johnsson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

I’ve made no secret about my like for Marleau, and earlier this summer I was sad when his plan to move closer to his home in San Jose seemed to hit a roadblock because the Sharks expressed no interest in having him play – even on the cheap.

Fans will remember that Marleau waived his no-movement clause so the Maple Leafs could “trade him” (dump his contract) to the Carolina Hurricanes who then bought him out. Everyone believed he would then quickly sign a bargain contract with the Sharks. But that wasn’t to be, and word came from the Sharks management that he was no longer a “fit.”

However, when the Sharks started the season poorly, suffering four consecutive defeats, general manager Doug Wilson announced the team had signed Marleau. The Sharks decided they needed him for two reasons: first, a Marcus Sorensen injury has created a hole and, second, the young players the team had relied upon simply hadn’t played well. Thus, adding Marleau seemed like the right thing to do. In addition, the fact that Marleau hasn’t missed a game due to injury or illness in more than 10 seasons shows his commitment to show up every day for work.

What Older Players Bring to the Ice

As the Maple Leafs are finding out with the experienced Jason Spezza, older players bring an ability to contribute that simply comes from experience and, perhaps, muscle memory. Obviously, in the case of these two players – Spezza and Marleau – their production levels are depressed from when they were in their primes, but they still think the game well and can score and contribute.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeffrey T. Barnes)

In addition, Marleau has an advantage with the Sharks that Spezza doesn’t have with the Maple Leafs. He’s familiar with the team. Marleau spent the summer skating and training with Sharks players in San Jose, which is sort of like a mini-training camp. He knows the players on the roster and has a head start towards building “chemistry” with the roster.

Finally, he and Joe Thornton go way back. You can’t play with someone for 12 seasons without building a strong and lasting relationship. In fact, on Oct. 8, the very day Marleau signed with the team, Thornton told a reporter that “(Marleau) should be playing somewhere.” He added, “I expect he’ll be somewhere soon. He skates with us in the summer and he’s still the best skater on the ice.”

Related: Maple Leafs 2018-19 Report Cards: Patrick Marleau

There seem to be two other good reasons for Marleau’s signing. First, he’s the team’s leader in games played (almost 1,500). If I were a marketing person, I would utilize that fact alone to sell tickets. Even during his two seasons with the Maple Leafs, it seemed as if Marleau were setting some sort of NHL record about every three weeks.

Second, Marleau signed a league-minimum contract. Given that the Sharks are tight against the upper limit of the salary cap, he fits financially.

Where Will Marleau Play with the Sharks?

The Sharks haven’t wasted any time getting Marleau involved. He made his season debut Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago. Prior to the game, CBS Sports has him slotted into the right wing of the Sharks’ top line with Timo Meier on the left wing and Logan Couture at center.

That was a good call. The Sharks won the game 5-4, and Marleau scored two goals. One was on a first-period power play, and the second was a wrist-shot late in the second period. He was named the game’s first star. Not a bad beginning for the new (old) Sharks player. It was the Sharks’ first win of the season.

Patrick Marleau Maple Leafs
Former Maple Leaf Patrick Marleau. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Good Luck, Patrick Marleau

As a fan of both hockey generally and Marleau specifically, it’s great to see him return to San Jose. Whether the 40-year-old forward can reach the 27-goal, 47-point form he reached during the 2017-18 season will be interesting to see. He’s had a good start getting there. Suddenly, I’m also interested how the fantasy hockey folks are going to treat his return.