Leafs getting serious
Toronto signs Patrick Marleau to three-year contract
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.
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.