What Patrick Marleau Means for the Maple Leafs
BY: Brandon Cameron
On July 2nd 2017, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a huge splash in the free agent market (surprise, surprise) with their signing of veteran forward of Patrick Marleau. The former Shark spent his whole career playing in San Jose but chose to finally leave at the age of 37. On the surface it seems like the Leafs may be up to their old ways of making outrageous deals, a la David Clarkson and Jeff Finger, but this deal means a lot more for the Maple Leafs. It’s a signing that gives the Leafs many options in the future.
With the signing of Patrick Marleau, the Maple Leafs are adding an extremely talented player to their roster. The Leafs added a player who’s scored over 500 goals, more than 1000 points, and played almost 1500 career games. Usually signing a player at the age of 37 is a diminishing asset, but Marleau is coming off of a 27-goal season with the Sharks which proves he still has some game left to play in the NHL. Bringing in a player who has won a gold medal under Mike Babcock’s system at the Olympics definitely adds much more intangibles than just offensive production to the Maple Leafs.
Being one of the youngest teams in the NHL, with their marquee players being teenagers, Marleau brings in some much needed experience to the Maple Leafs lineup. Something people tend to forget about is that before Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton were captains in San Jose, Patrick Marleau was the captain of the team for five seasons. Moreover, the Leafs are still left captain less and this could lead to the possibility of the Leafs finally allowing someone to wear the “C”. The Leafs could theoretically Make Marleau the captain for a few seasons while nurturing Morgan Rielly or Auston Matthews t take over when he ultimately retires at the end of his three-year deal. The Marleau signing may seem like too much term, and too high of a cap hit, but the Maple Leafs new regime has a strong track record fo making smart moves and the organization wouldn’t make a move that would hurt the long-term success of this team.
The addition of Patrick Marleau brings another quality winger into the Maple Leafs roster which gives Toronto an excess amount of NHL caliber forwards ready to make an impact at the NHL level. In particular, the maple leafs’ top-nine forward group has exceptional depth. Their left wingers currently consist of Marleau, James VanRiemsdyk, William Nylander, and Leo Komarov. All four of these players are capable of playing in a high role. Not to mention Josh Leivo and Matt Martin also battling for NHL spots, thus, creating a log jam at the left wing position.
It seems logical that Nylander will continue to play with Matthews and Hyman to start the year, and that Marleau would slide down the depth chart to play with either Kadri’s line or Marner’s line. The problem there is that those spots are currently occupied by other quality NHL players. It is no secret that the Leafs have been in the market for a top-four defenseman and withthe signing of Marleau it allows the Leafs to potentially shop around James VanRiemsdyk or another good wingerto acquire the the defenseman they covet. The acquisition of Marleau definitely would cushion the loss of whichever winger is dealt, especially if the Leafs could trade or a topend defenseman.
Patrick Marleau means something a lot more than just the flexibility of fine-tuning the roster. He brings with him something that the Maple Leafs had been missing for a long time. Almost immediately after taking over the Maple Leafs, Brendan Shanahan began a much needed culture change in Toronto. Toronto has always had a negative reputation around the league for their lack of success over the last 60 years. Shanahan has done everything he can to change the culture in Toronto, and the signing of Patrick Marleau just confirms what every Leafs fan could have ever hoped for—Toronto is finally an attractive market for marquee players. While not being the best player in the league, bringing in a player of Marleau’s caliber clearly shows that the Leafs are getting noticed as a team that can legitimately compete for Stanley Cups, yes pluralized cups, in the very near future.
It is a very exciting time in Toronto and with the signing of Marleau it seems like the Leafs are finally turning a page and becoming a competitive team again. Granted, some of the ground work had been laid in the last few years, but now the Maple Leafs seem to be at the fine-tuning portion of the rebuild. Marleau may not be the player he once was, but he brings hope to Toronto because it shows that the league sees that this Leafs roster is filled with the potential and may finally be ready to contend and bring a cup home to Toronto for the first time since 1967.