Leafs get­ting se­ri­ous

Toronto signs Patrick Mar­leau to three-year con­tract

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY JONAS SIEGEL

The Toronto Maple Leafs showed they were se­ri­ous about Stan­ley Cup con­tention right now in poach­ing Patrick Mar­leau from the San Jose Sharks.

Mar­leau joined the Leafs on a three-year deal Sun­day night, end­ing a 20-year ten­ure with the Sharks, who drafted him sec­ond over­all in 1997. The 37-yearold in­stantly beefs up a ris­ing Toronto squad that nearly top­pled the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy­win­ning Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals in the play­offs last April and one that ev­i­dently be­lieves it’s ready to con­tend for the Stan­ley Cup as soon as the com­ing sea­son.

Sign­ing Mar­leau — along­side sub­tler ros­ter up­grades on July 1 — makes that clear.

“It was the team, I think,” Mar­leau said of pick­ing the Leafs in free agency. “The ex­cite­ment that’s around it, the youth, the coach­ing staff, the coach, the man­age­ment, the way they see the game go­ing, the play­ers that they have on their ros­ter. It’s ex­tremely ex­cit­ing to be a part of that.”

The Leafs are try­ing to snatch the last bit of good from his Hall of Fame-wor­thy ca­reer while in­ject­ing vet­eran sta­bil­ity and ver­sa­til­ity into an lineup that’s mostly pop­u­lated by youth. The club also has a lim­ited win­dow for mak­ing such a move with young stars Aus­ton Matthews, Wil­liam Ny­lan­der and Mitch Marner all still on en­try-level con­tracts.

“We won’t be able to do this in a year or so but we have the room and flex­i­bil­ity to do it (now) and not in­ter­rupt the process that we have in place, un­der­stand­ing where our young play­ers are and where they will be,” Leafs gen­eral man­ager Lou Lamor­iello said in a state­ment re­leased by the team.

Mar­leau, who turns 38 in Septem­ber and car­ries a (some­what risky) US$6.25 million an­nual cap hit, showed he still had some­thing left last year, scor­ing 27 goals and 19 as­sists in 82 games. He notched 25 goals a sea­son ear­lier and hasn’t missed a game since the 2008-09 cam­paign. In fact, he’s played in 98 per cent of games since his NHL ca­reer be­gan two weeks af­ter Matthews was born in 1997.

Mar­leau didn’t sign when free agency opened Satur­day, ev­i­dently mulling over whether to fi­nally leave San Jose.

“I think I’ve worn out a few car­pets pac­ing around the house the last cou­ple days,” he said on a con­fer­ence call.

Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock has ex­pe­ri­ence with Mar­leau from the 2010 and 2014 Olympics and will be en­am­oured by how much use he can po­ten­tially get from the na­tive of Aneroid, Sask. Mar­leau can line up at wing or cen­tre, boost a power play, win a face­off, com­bat top lines and kill penal­ties — though it’s in ques­tion how ef­fec­tively he can do it all as he ap­proaches 40.

Toronto adds him to a for­ward con­tin­gent that’s boom­ing with skill, but also lack­ing in some­one like Mar­leau, a player who’s com­peted at the peaks of the sport and done so at a high level.

The Leafs, no­tably, en­tered the post-sea­son last spring with next to no play­off ex­pe­ri­ence; Mar­leau, alone, has suited up for 177 games.

CP PHOTO

In this March 21 photo, San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Mar­leau, white jersey, gains con­trol of the puck against Min­nesota Wild’s Jared Spur­geon in the sec­ond pe­riod of an NHL game in St. Paul, Minn. Mar­leau has left the Sharks and signed an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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