If there is anyone who knows the way to San Jose, it is Mr. Shark, Patrick Marleau.
Reports surfaced in earlier this month that Patrick Marleau would be willing to waive his no-movement clause for a trade in an effort to clear some much needed cap space for his current team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, so that they may be able to retain key restricted free agent core players such as Mitch Marner, Kaspari Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, let alone have a shot at re-signing other pieces such as Tyler Ennis, Jake Gardiner and other unrestricted free agents.
Rumors of Marleau’s condition for a willingness to play out the final year of his three-year contract at a 2019-20 cap hit of $6.25 million in a different uniform were that he be traded to a team in the West, so that he may be closer to his San Jose, where presumably his family plans on returning to for the upcoming season. The situation is, for all intents and purposes, a matter of “when” and “where” he will be traded as opposed to “if” — particularly so when it became apparent that the near-40-year-old is selling his home in Toronto.
And while the LA Kings, as well as other nearby teams such as the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche, were rumored as likely destinations, given their cap space and ability to absorb Marleau’s contract from the Leafs’ perspective and relatively nearby geographic proximity to San Jose for Marleau, it seems there is a chance that this story receives an ending of the Hollywood variety.
In an article written by our dear Fear the Fin Alumni Marcus White at NBC Sports, detailing comments made by Nick Kypreos on Sportsnet 590, it is rumored that Marleau will only agree to a trade to San Jose. But is a trade to San Jose feasible?
The Sharks are now more cap-strapped than ever between Erik Karlsson’s $11.5 million cap hit and news that the league’s salary cap may fall below the initial estimate of $83 million to around $81.5-$82 million. A good combination of pending unrestricted agents such as captain Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist, Joonas Donskoi, Joe Thornton and Tim Heed, and restricted free agents in Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Joakim Ryan, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela, among others need extensions. A trade with San Jose — even if Toronto throws in a sweetener such as the rights to Kapanen or draft picks — is simply impossible from San Jose’s perspective. Even a scenario where Toronto retains half of Marleau’s salary in exchange for a smaller return for San Jose seems highly unlikely given both teams’ cap situations.
The only situation where a trade makes sense for both teams is if there is a three-team deal where the third party buys out the final year of Marleau’s contract to allow San Jose to sign Marleau to a short-term, cheap contract, such as a one-year deal at an annual average value (AAV) of $1 million or less.
Some have expressed deep pessimism towards a Marleau reunion even if the cap situation were to work out with a third party team. Three main reasons are cited: a Marleau return 1) eats away at much needed cap space, 2) does not contribute towards San Jose’s cup aspirations based on Marleau’s declining performance in the 2018-19 season relative to his standards and 3) claims a roster spot which would otherwise go to a younger player such as Alexander True or Alexander Chmelevski and impede the process of their development and San Jose’s evaluation of their capability to play in the NHL.
Others are pleading to Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson to make a Marleau reunion happen. Assuming Erik Karlsson heals fully and the Sharks are able to retain key players such as Pavelski, Meier and Labanc, the Sharks should once again have a great shot at the Stanley Cup in the 2019-20 season. What a scenario it would be to provide what could very well be a farewell tour for both Thornton and Marleau to hoist the Stanley Cup together in San Jose. Both would be on one-year deals, and Marleau might be willing to sign on for very cheap. Marleau’s play, while not up to par with his middle-six standards, could still provide San Jose with a solid bottom-six winger, who at the very least is still able to drive play and make the right plays, even if he can’t put up the kind of points he once was able to in the past. Of course, there is also the added element of attendance sales likely skyrocketing with the buzz of Thornton and Marleau’s quest for the cup.
Below is what I see as a scenario — quite possibly the only scenario — which allows for a Marleau reunion with the Sharks possible. Essentially, it relies on the aforementioned third-party deal with Marleau so that he can sign for cheap with San Jose, as well as Meier and Labanc signing off to short-term deals for less money at the opportunity of receiving more money after their contract expires before they are set for unrestricted free agency, in a bridge deal, as previously done with Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto.
Meier (two years, $3.75 million AAV) — Couture — Labanc (two years, $2.6 million AAV)
Kane — Hertl — Pavelski (two years, $7 milion AAV)
Sorensen — Suomela (two years, $850,000 AAV) — Donskoi (four years, $2.6 million AAV)
Marleau (one year, $800,000 AAV) — Thornton (one year, $1 million AAV) — Goodrow
Radil — Gambrell (two years, $800,000 AAV)
Middleton / Karlsson
Simek / Burns
Vlasic / Heed (one year, $1 million AAV)
Ryan (two years, $850,000 AAV)
Martin Jones ($5,750,000)
Josef Korenar ($723,333)
Paul Martin ($1,416,667)
Roster Size: 23
Salary Cap: $81,500,000
Bonus Overages: $660,750
Cap Hit: $81,460,750
Cap Space: $39,250
Here is a link where you can find the whole roster and entire cap situation on CapFriendly. This roster relies on trading away Brenden Dillon, Melker Karlsson and Aaron Dell to create cap space, making the contracts similar to the ones mentioned, and relying on younger players such as Middleton and Korenar to make leaps and mark their place in the NHL.
What do you think of a Marleau reunion with San Jose? Is it feasible? Worth it? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Stay Gutless my friends.