July 3, 2017 by The Waterboy Report
On Sunday, Patrick Marleau signed a three-year deal worth $18.75 million, which is an average annual value of $6.25 million. The soon to be 38-year-old instantly becomes the highest paid player on the current Leafs roster and instantly enters into the spotlight of Leafs nation.
Patrick Marleau has spent his entire 20-year career wearing a San Jose Sharks uniform. He will undoubtedly become a hall-of-famer when he retires as he has reached the 500 goal plateau and has also scored over 1000 points in his impressive career.
Marleau is one of the most durable players in the NHL as he has not missed a single game in the past eight seasons.
Signing a unique talent like Marleau had to be tempting, especially for the Maple Leafs who possess so many young stars. It is evident that Lou Lamoriello wanted to sign a guy that could be a mentor and a leader to the youth of the Maple Leafs. Marleau should fill that spot quite nicely; however, the signing of Marleau will also cause some major complications over the next few years.
On July 1st, 2018, the Maple Leafs will have James Van Reimsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov all become unrestricted free agents as well as William Nylander become a restricted free agent. Keep in mind that all of these players with the exception of Komarov had significantly more points than Marleau did last season.
In case figuring out what to do with these players isn’t already difficult enough, it becomes so much more complicated when you realize that franchise player Auston Matthews and arguably the second best forward on the Leafs Mitch Marner will become restricted free agents in the summer of 2019.
Oh, and arguably the Leafs top defenseman Jake Gardiner will become an unrestricted free agent in July of 2019.
As 20-year-olds, Matthews and Marner both finished with significantly more points than Marleau did last season while Gardiner finished just 3 points shy of Marleau’s point total while playing defence.
Obviously, the Leafs are likely going to re-sign Matthews, Marner and Nylander to keep their three key young stars. Also, Jake Gardiner is likely going to ink a contract extension as solid, elite defenseman are exactly what the Leafs need to make a serious Stanley Cup run.
However, with the new addition of veteran forward Patrick Marleau and the urgency to keep their three best forwards and top defenseman, it leaves Bozak, Van Reimsdyk and Komarov with one foot out the door.
These three players would have probably been willing to take a slight pay cut and a cap friendly contract in order to remain with the Leafs. Komarov and Bozak have been Toronto Maple Leafs for their entire NHL careers while Van Reimsdyk has been a Maple Leafs for the past five seasons. These players know the opportunity that they have in Toronto and would likely want to remain a part of the organization for years to come.
Bozak and Van Reimsdyk have built great chemistry playing alongside one another for a number of years while Komarov has become a critical enforcer on the Leafs’ roster. It wouldn’t be surprising to see all three of these players wearing a different uniform at the beginning of the 2018 season.
Also, it should be noted that Marleau’s play has faltered in the past few seasons, especially when focusing on his defensive game. In the 2014-2015 season and in the 2015-2016 season, Marleau had the worst plus minus rating on the Sharks at -17 and -22 respectively. Last season he did manage to have a plus rating of 4, but it was still below average for Sharks players who played over 50 games.
When the Leafs look back on the Marleau signing years from now, they will probably realize that it was much more important to sign players who were in the primes of their careers and looking to negotiate to stay in Toronto as opposed to throwing money at Marleau to persuade him to move from a city that he spend the previous two decades in. Marleau will be put in a high pressure situation to be the veteran leader to lead the Leafs to the Promised Land while being well out of his prime.
It’s not impossible for the signing to pay off for the Maple Leafs, but to realistically believe that Marleau will step up his game and consistently produce until nearly 41 years of age is highly improbable.
By Luke Appia – Statboy @LukeAppia