UPDATE (4:45 PM): We’ve updated this story with Marleau’s quotes from a conference call with reporters, his new coach’s thoughts, and other teams’ reported offers. The updated version is below.
For the first time in his NHL career, Patrick Marleau will play for a team other than the San Jose Sharks this season. The longest-tenured, highest-scoring player in franchise history signed a three-year contract worth $6.25 million annually with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team announced today.
The contract includes a full no-movement clause, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston. The deal will pay him $8.5 million next season, $6 million in 2018-19, and $4.25 million in 2019-20, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. $14.5 million of the $18.75 million in the contract will be paid in the form of a signing bonus, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported.
The #Leafs announced today the signing of F Patrick Marleau to a 3-year contract. The annual average value of the contract is $6.25 million.— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) July 2, 2017
The 37-year-old forward was linked to Toronto throughout the week, with Head Coach Mike Babcock reportedly selling him hard on joining the upstart Leafs. Babcock coached Marleau on Canada's gold medal-winning squads at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, and has spoken highly of Marleau in the past. He did so again in a conference call with reporters on Sunday.
Mike Babcock on Patrick Marleau coming to Toronto: "I think it’s going to be the fountain of youth for him."— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) July 2, 2017
Asked about Marleau's age (38 on Sept. 15) and the term (three years), Babcock said: "Have you seen him skate?"— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) July 2, 2017
Babcock on Marleau: "Even if he doesn’t score the goals, he can skate. ... He can play against the best people and do it right every night."— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) July 2, 2017
The Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and Dallas Stars were the teams Marleau was reportedly deciding between. San Jose reportedly offered Marleau a two-year deal shortly before free agency, but neither the Sharks nor the Ducks were willing to offer Marleau the three-year deal he was reportedly seeking. It was ultimately a difficult decision, according to the now-former Shark himself.
Marleau says he wore out a few carpets pacing around the house as he has tried to decide his next move.— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) July 2, 2017
Marleau says it was extremely difficult to leave San Jose and make his family move across the continent and across the border.— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) July 2, 2017
Marleau debuted for San Jose on October 1, 1997, just 16 days after his 18th birthday, and just over three months after the Sharks selected him second overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Over the next 19 seasons, Marleau played 1493 regular season games in teal, the seventh-most with one franchise of any player in NHL history. He scored 509 goals, the ninth-most of any player with one team, and 1082 points.
Midway through the 2003-04 season, his sixth with the Sharks, Marleau was named the team’s sixth Captain in their history. Marleau led the Sharks to the franchise’s first Western Conference Finals appearance, finishing two wins short of an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
He served as Captain until the end of the 2009 season, when the Pacific Division rival Anaheim Ducks bounced the President’s Trophy-winning Sharks in the first round. It capped of a four-season stretch where, despite the 2005 acquisition of Joe Thornton from Boston, San Jose was unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs, and Marleau took the fall. Trade rumors including his name then circulated prior to the 2009-10 season, and on and off for the remainder of his Sharks tenure.
Despite the turmoil, Marleau thrived. He scored 30 or more goals in every 82-game season from 2008-2014, as the Sharks advanced to back-to-back Conference Finals appearances in 2009 and 2010. In the 2014-15 season, Marleau’s production began to drop. He still managed to score 25 or more goals in each of the next two seasons, but age started to catch up to the speedy winger as he failed to crack 50 points in consecutive seasons for the first time since he was 20-years-old.
Although he was often criticized for his performances in the postseason, Marleau’s 120 playoff points (and 68 playoff goals) are a franchise record. His 16 game-winning goals in the postseason, which included two memorable series-clinchers against the Detroit Red Wings in 2010 and 2011, are also a Sharks record, and tied for the eighth-most in NHL history. Marleau assisted on two of San Jose’s five goals, including the game-winner, when the Sharks punched their first ticket to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. In Marleau’s first game in the Stanley Cup Final, 18 seasons into his career, Marleau finally scored his first goal on hockey’s biggest stage.
But the Sharks lost that series in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Marleau’s teal tenure ended without a Stanley Cup. San Jose made the postseason for the 17th time in Marleau’s 19-season career during his last season with the Sharks, but failed to advance out of the first round. Marleau tied for the team-lead in scoring in the Sharks’ first round loss to the Edmonton Oilers, and scored San Jose’s final goal of the postseason in a series-ending loss in Game 6.
Now, Marleau will continue his quest for his first championship no longer wearing teal and black, but blue and white. He will no longer share a team with Thornton, a 1997 draftee, but with Auston Matthews, a man born mere weeks before Marleau’s NHL debut in 1997
20 years after Marleau first suited up in SAP Center’s home locker room, Marleau will suit up in its visiting locker room for the first time on October 30. Then, Marleau will play against the Sharks for the first time in his career. He won’t skate out of the Shark head, but the opposing tunnel.