The San Jose Sharks and Patrick Marleau nearly wrote an amazing story together this postseason. With Marleau having recently been reported as “driving the bus” for a trade out of San Jose only one season after signing an extension to stay with the Sharks, the relationship between the team and player looked lost.
Marleau remained in Sharks teal and white however, and the Sharks never skipped a beat in the standings. Marleau helped the Sharks finally takedown the Los Angeles Kings again in the first round, then contributed to series victories over the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues.
Suddenly, Marleau was playing in his first career Stanley Cup Final.
Marleau scored the game-tying goal in Game 1, hoping to foreshadow an even longer stretch of bliss between the once torn apart team and player. Unfortunately, the Sharks bowed out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, with Marleau failing to score another goal.
The San Jose Sharks are now focused on working their way back to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2016-17 campaign, and Patrick Marleau has made it clear that he wants to stay in San Jose.
When Marleau wanted to leave the Sharks declined to move him, but now that he wants to stay it is time for the Sharks to once again ignore their longest tenured player.
San Jose must do everything possible to move forward without the 36-year old forward, working to find an agreement that benefits the organization and the player.
Marleau’s Sharks career has been spectacular, but there has been a dropoff in play in the past few years. Last season, Marleau scored only 3 even strength goals in the final 46 games of the season, showing a rapid decline that was masked behind the tremendous play of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Logan Couture.
In the postseason, Marleau regained some of his even strength talent, but scored only one goal on the power play in 22 games. At no point after the 36th game of the season was he firing on all cylinders, and despite his defensive abilities, the Sharks appeared to be winning despite him, not because of him.
He ranked 15th out of 19 skaters that played 40 or more games in even strength Goals For percentage with a 40.40 percent mark, failing to reach his usual standards. Simply put, the decline is happening full force with the long-time Shark, and sticking around to see where it goes would be unwise.
The Sharks have young players such as Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier ready to enter the lineup under cheap contracts. Marleau’s contract carries a $6.6 million cap hit, a price the Sharks cannot afford to pay if they wish to make the improvements necessary to contend once again. Inserting cheap alternatives in for Marleau will give the Sharks flexibility they clearly require.
In addition to the ability to insert cheap players in the lineup, the Sharks have needs that must be filled if they wish to advance deep into the playoffs once again. Brendan Dillon and Roman Polak proved to be a weak third pairing on defense, so splurging into the defense pool in free agency using Marleau’s cap hit would be money better spent for the Sharks.
Dealing Marleau may require some cap retention, but rather than paying a declining forward $6.6 million, the Sharks could retain $2.6 million and spend the remaining $4 million on a defenseman, or on a couple of depth players.
San Jose’s bottom six included Dainius Zubrus and even nearly Micheal Haley in the postseason, showing a clear need for an upgrade. The top six is strong enough without Marleau, and Marleau does not fit into a bottom six role as well as cheaper options would anyway.
Splitting up with the longest tenured player on the team would be a difficult decision to make for the Sharks, but it is one that must be made. Patrick Marleau is not the player he once was, the Sharks are in better standing than they have ever been, and there is potential for greatness if the difficult move is made.
Getting Marleau to agree to a trade may prove difficult, but it is a task worth taking on for GM Doug Wilson.
Stats via Natural Stat Trick