Kevin Kurz dropped a bombshell on the hockey world Tuesday night, reporting that Patrick Marleau would accept a trade to three teams: New York, Los Angeles, and Anaheim.
Kurz, whose legitimacy as a reporting source is questionable at best, was vindicated when Bob McKenzie added that Marleau was apparently the one to have initiated trade talks.
First off, good for you Patrick. The beach and the Big Apple? That’s no-movement-clause-waiving 101!
But seriously, this news came as a shock to anyone who’s been paying attention to the NHL for a number of reasons.
Firstly: San Jose, after professing that it was in a state of rebuild, seemed to have shifted gears by making a number of veteran signings this summer. By all indications, this was a team looking to make a playoff push.
Secondly, it had long been concluded that Marleau would never leave the Sharks after general manager Doug Wilson has reportedly already tried to trade him.
And lastly, two teams on his list are bitter rivals of the Sharks. The trade would make all the sense in the world for those teams, but could the Sharks’ front office stomach watching one of their all-time greats in a rival uniform, potentially lighting them up?
For one of those teams in particular, the Anaheim Ducks, the potential move makes a lot of sense under the right circumstances.
Why It Makes Sense For Anaheim
It’s no secret that the Ducks are squarely in “win-now” mode. The signing of Ryan Kesler to a monster contract, among other veteran signings, shows that general manager Bob Murray (and the ownership groups’ checkbook) believes that this group can win a Stanley Cup as soon as this spring. Marleau’s arrival would only emboldens that mentality.
Marleau, though now 36 years of age, is still very much a player that can have a positive impact on a team.
Like many of his teammates last year, Marleau suffered a drop in offensive production. A lot of that can be attributed to a minuscule 5.8% percent shooting percentage, his lowest total of the past four seasons by a wide margin. His shot generation remained very healthy, so there’s reason to believe that he can rebound nicely.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau has had a difficult time fitting a permanent left-winger for either of his top two lines, a dilemma that Marleau’s presence would alleviate by default.
It Gets Complicated
The Ducks’ cap sheet is the proverbial sword that this trade scenario might fall on.
Currently, Anaheim has roughly seven million dollars in cap room, while Marleau’s cap hit is a whopping $6.66 million dollars.
Not an easy hit to absorb, especially given that Murray will have to re-sign a number of important pieces as soon as this summer.
And that’s without mentioning the cost of bringing Marleau. We can only speculate, since no reputable reports have come out in that regard.
Looking at the Sharks’ roster and its lack of defensive depth, we can safely assume that San Jose would be interested in acquiring one of Anaheim’s young defensemen. The Ducks have a surplus there, including Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson, Simon Despres, and Shea Theodore.
One of those could be traded without hurting the farm too much, but that’s still a high price to pay for a player that might only bring you two years of decent hockey, while also booking up your cap sheet.
Anaheim has the right assets to make this work, though their use would entail sacrificing two years’ worth of cap flexibility.
Which begs the question: is Patrick Marleau worth that risk? Is he undoubtedly the final puzzle piece for the Ducks’ Cup quest?
He might not fit that exact bill, but there’s no doubt he would help resolve some of Anaheim’s offensive struggles in a big way. His speed and uncanny nose for the net would make the Ducks’ top-six all the more dangerous, perhaps lighting a fire under the likes of Ryan Getzlaf or Ryan Kesler.
There’s no easy answer, but the undeniable offense that Marleau can bring might make this too sweet of a deal for Murray’s “win-now” mentality to pass up. The merits of that vis-a-vis the future health of the franchise though, are muddy at best.
If a second Cup arrives in Anaheim thanks to such a blockbuster deal, will anyone care about cap flexibility though? That’s a conundrum that should make anyone happy that they’re not Bob Murray right now.