Marleau adds depth, leadership.
The second day of National Hockey League free agency was a boon for hockey in Canada as one team locked up its franchise goalie and another gave its young star a new winger.
Carey Price, considered by many the best goaltender in the world, signed an eight-year extension with the Canadiens that means he’ll likely finish his career in Montreal. The rival Toronto Maple Leafs countered by signing elder forward Patrick Marleau, 37, to an $18.75-million US, three-year contract that puts a veteran goalscorer on Auston Matthews’ left wing.
The Canadiens and Maple Leafs haven’t met in the playoffs since 1979. Moves made Sunday put them on a much more likely crash course in the next few years.
Price’s extension, which reportedly pays him $10.5 million a year from 2018-19 through to the 20252026 season, solidifies the most important position in the sport long term in one of the league’s most fervent markets. Price won the Hart Trophy as MVP and Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in 201415 and has the third-best save percentage of any active goaltender since entering the league. Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin didn’t hesitate in calling Price his “franchise player.”
“I have enough experience to deal with anything that being a goaltender for the Canadiens can throw at me,” Price said. “I never thought about putting on another uniform. I just thought it’d be too weird, I guess.”
It was weird for some to ever imagine Marleau wearing another uniform other than the San Jose Sharks. But he’ll do so next season after leaving the team that drafted him second overall in 1997 that he played for the past 19 seasons.
Marleau weighed several offers and decided to leave San Jose and take a deal with Toronto at approximately $6.25 million a year.
After teams spent more than $200 million in the first few hours of free agency Saturday, the league was mostly quiet on Sunday with most of the big names off the board. A few remain, including Montreal’s rock steady veteran Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov, whom Price would like to have back. That’s far from a guarantee. “I spoke to both players and we made offers they chose not to take (in order to) to go on the free agent market,” Bergevin said. “That’s their right, and I respect that. But at the end of the day, based on what they’re asking for, it would be impossible to bring back both of them.”
Several players in their late 30s and even their 40s remain unsigned, including longtime Marleau running mate Joe Thornton, who’s 38. Jaromir Jagr, 45, and Jarome Iginla, 40, are also available, while 40-year-olds Shane Doan and Matt Cullen are deciding whether to play another year.
The Vegas Golden Knights made another trade Sunday, acquiring centre Marcus Kruger from the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations.
Carey Price will soon be the highest-paid goaltender in the National Hockey League.
Free agent forward Patrick Marleau has signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.