Patrick Marleau got a three-year contract with an average cap hit of $6.25 million out of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which is unbelievable.
OK, it’s not completely unbelievable.
Mike Babcock coached against Marleau for years and had him on the Canadian Olympic team, and is an unabashed fan. The Leafs apparently wanted to add a veteran to the room, and boy howdy is Marleau a veteran, debuting in the NHL several days after Auston Matthews was born. And Lou Lamoriello has a penchant for handing over big money contracts with questionable term to veteran unrestricted free agents, and Ryane Clowe certainly thanks him for that.
But the fact that Marleau, who turns 38 as training camp starts this season, found someone to give him a third contractual year is stunning. The San Jose Sharks, with whom he’s played since 1997, would only go for two years, knowing what a third year at $6.25 million on an over-35 contract could mean in 2019, when Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are both unrestricted. It would be fiscally insane to have a 40-year-old Patrick Marleau on your cap at that point.
The Leafs offered him three years during this courtship, with Matthews and Mitch Marner and William Nylander all headed off their ELCs in the next three years. But they should, in theory, have the space to absorb the hit. Which brings us to the second debate topic:
Do the Leafs need Patrick Marleau?
He hasn’t missed a regular-season game since 2009, so there’s that. He had 27 goals and 19 assists last season, a third straight year of statistic decline, despite playing the majority of his minutes with Pavelski and Joe Thornton. He’s a solid possession player, can win you a faceoff and has the versatility to play left wing or center. He’s not the blazer he was back in the day, but he’s hardly a liability on speed despite the miles on his tires.
Look, there’s every reason to like the addition of a quality human being to the collection of young stars on the Leafs. Marleau is, if nothing else, that Jagr-esque role model on how to prepare for a season and the effort it takes to excel. Nor is it a bad thing to add a forward to your group that has a history of playing with top-end talent.
But there’s every reason to believe that this deal could look back in Year 2, let alone in Year 3 when a 40-year-old Patrick Marleau is either still on the ice or his money is still on the cap.
At first, we thought the Leafs were structuring a deal for a potential trade in Year 3, as Darren Dreger reports it goes from $8.5 million in salary next season down to $4.25 in 2019-20. But James Mirtle says the Marleau deal has a FULL NO-MOVE CLAUSE, so there goes that idea.
Of course, there’s always Robidas Island. Because if there’s anything Loophole Lou likes more than overpaying veteran free agents, it’s finding new and exciting ways to get around those contracts.
Overlooked in all of this is the impact that Marleau’s departure has on the Sharks, and particularly on his friend Joe Thornton, who reportedly is back with San Jose for another season. It’s truly an end of an era for the franchise’s stalwart forward, a player of enormous ability, incredible admiration and more than a little frustration during his time with the Sharks. We’ll have more on that tomorrow.
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