We are quickly approaching the 20th anniversary of the day that the San Jose Sharks selected Patrick Marleau second overall at the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. He has been a prominent part of the club so long that it is hard to imagine one without the other.
By this point, we have watched Marleau for so long now that we have a pretty good idea of who he is, as a player, and what he is capable of doing. When looked at as a whole, Patrick Marleau’s 2016-17 season was almost exactly what I would have predicted last September. Marleau wound up with 27 goals (20 at even strength), and was a positive possession player.
Of course, one of the things that we have to expect from Marleau, is that things won’t quite be as good as they could have been. He registered only 19 assists (10 at even strength), and only 16 points on the power play, despite getting significant time on the top unit.
At this point, Marleau is a middle six winger, who is capable of driving play and scoring goals when used in that role. As Jake pointed out here, he played his best hockey on the second line with Logan Couture. Marleau was at his worst at the end of the season when Couture and Thornton were injured, and he was asked to take on much of their responsibilities. We should remember that Marleau did finish the season with a broken thumb, which certainly did not help his play down the stretch.
The most enjoyable part of Marleau’s season was seeing seeing Patrick Marleau pass several great players in total career goals. In this season alone, he moved past Sergei Fedorov, Darryl Sittler, Brian Bellows, Norm Ullman, Jean Ratelle, Glen Anderson, Lanny McDonald, Joe Mullen, and Jean Beliveau. All of these, save Bellows & Bondra, are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
More impressive was what Marleau accomplished in the playoffs. He led the team with three goals, which tied him for 17th on the list of all time postseason goal scorers. Who is he tied with, you ask? GORDIE HOWE. Patrick Marleau has scored as many playoff goals as Mr. Hockey himself.
2016-17 Sharks 5v5 Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey)
Patrick Marleau Rolling 25-game average CF%, adjusted for score, zone, and venue (via Corsica Hockey)
Player Hero Chart (via Own The Puck)
What Comes Next?
That is the question, isn’t it? Patrick Marleau will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, unless, of course, he signs an extension between now and then.
I believe that a team will offer him a contract that the Sharks won’t be able or willing to match. Look at the contracts that are signed on July 1 and tell me that somebody won’t offer Marleau $20 million over 4 years. That is only $1 million a year more than Boedker signed for last season, so Marleau could well be offered even more. Considering his age, and the fact that younger players like Pavelski and Vlasic will soon need new contracts, I don’t think the Sharks can afford to match the offers that he is likely to receive. And I don’t think they would be wise to commit more than two years to a player who is pushing 40. But this will probably be his last chance to make significant money, and Patrick Marleau should do what he thinks is best for himself and his family.
It is entirely possible, however, that Marleau decides that what is best for him and his family is for him to stay with the Sharks, even if that means taking less money than he could have gotten elsewhere. This might happen, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Wherever Patrick Marleau plays next season, he will pass Jeremy Roenick on the all-time scoring list. Though the thought of seeing him in another sweater is unsettling, this should bring a smile to every Sharks fan.