Should the Maple Leafs Pursue Marleau?

With NHL free agency just a few days away it’s time to take a serious look at players that have been connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are some big names out there this year with the likes of Joe Thornton, Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrick Marleau available for teams to pursue. The most recent player connected to the Leafs is Marleau.

With Marleau coming off a 27-goal season and six other teams competing to sign him, should the Leafs sign Marleau in free agency?

What Is Marleau Worth?

Free agency is always a silly time in the NHL. Teams scramble to outbid each other and sign that all important player all the while making a complete overpayment. But for some teams, it’s worth overpaying to add a 27 goal scorer to your roster. Are the Leafs one of those teams?

This season Marleau finished the season with 27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points in 82 games. Marleau is still a top scorer in the NHL, but his production has dropped off significantly over the last few years. In the 2015-16 season he finished with 25 goals and 48 points in 82 games and 19 goals and 57 points in 82 games in the 2014-15 season.

Patrick Marleau (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Marleau is still a great player, but he’s 37 years old and three seasons removed from the 33 goals and 70 points he had in the 2013-14 season. He’s getting older and isn’t worth what he was getting in his last contract that was for three years at $6.66 million a season. It’s also important to note that he signed that contract on Jan.24 2014, which was halfway through the 2013-14 season in which he finished with 70 points.

So what would be a realistic contract for Marleau? Well at that age most teams would offer him a one or two-year deal because of his age and in terms of the price range, it would need to be in the $4-5 million range. Despite being quite a bit older at 45 years old, the most realistic comparison would be Jaromir Jagr.

Jaromir Jagr (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

On May. 5 2016 Jagr signed another one-year deal with the Florida Panthers with a cap hit of $4 million after coming off a 27 goal and 66 point season in 2015-16. So for Marleau, it would need to be around $4 million to make sense, any more than that just isn’t cost effective.

Is Marleau a Fit for the Maple Leafs?

The Leafs finished fifth in goals for in the NHL, so it’s hard to argue that they really need that extra punch of offense. Now when looking at their roster from this past season it’s obvious that most of that scoring came from down the middle and on the right wing.

The left wing has a huge drop off after James van Riemsdyk, who finished second in team scoring with 62 points and third in goals with 29, with Leo Komarov, Zach Hyman and Matt Martin as the other left wingers.  Adding Marleau into that mix would certainly round out the Leafs left wing and bring more skill to that side.

Maple Leafs, James van Riemsdyk, NHL
James van Riemsdyk will be part of the asking price in most possible deals. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

There is also the contract issue with van Riemsdyk. After next season his contract will expire and he will become an unrestricted free agent that the Leafs will need to re-sign. This would most certainly cost them as he could just walk for a more lucrative contract with another team, so the general consensus has been that the Leafs will need to trade him before that.

By bringing in Marleau for a year or two could make trading van Riemsdyk a viable option for the Leafs. They would add a new asset, presumably a defenseman, in a trade for van Riemsdyk and have Marleau in the lineup to replace that lost production.

So should the Leafs pursue Marleau?

That’s an easy yes. He would give the Leafs better depth on the left wing and be a suitable replacement for van Riemsdyk if they choose to trade him. The only issue would be the price. There will be a team that will try to overpay Marleau and the Leafs need to stand firm on the amount they are willing to sign him for. A one-year deal at around $4 million would be perfect, but if Marleau wants a contract of $6 million then the Leafs need to walk away.