Marleau latest Shark out of water; Knights add to roster
July 04, 2017 3:04 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Mark your calendars for Monday, Oct. 30, then skip the halftime show for the Broncos-Chiefs Monday Night Football game on ESPN.
Instead, tune in for the “welcome back” ceremony for NHL veteran Patrick Marleau, who will make his first appearance at SAP Center in San Jose as a member of the visiting team.
Marleau, who played exclusively for the Sharks over a 20-year (19-season), Hall of Fame career spanning nearly 1,500 games, recently signed a three-year, $18.75 million free agency deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Similar to the situation involving Ray Bourque, a beloved defenseman for the Boston Bruins who departed to Colorado late in his career and won his first Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001, Marleau is going “all in” with the Leafs.
“It was the team, the excitement that’s around it, the youth, the coaching staff, the coach, the management, the way they see the game going and the players they have on their roster,” said Marleau, who surpassed the 500-goal plateau last season. “It’s extremely exciting to be a part of that,”
Toronto reached the playoffs for the first time since 2004 thanks to rookie forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander. Toss Marleau in the mix as the veteran presence and perhaps a legitimate Cup run could be coming forth.
“I think I’ve worn out a few carpets pacing around the house and trying to make this decision over the last couple days,” Marleau added. “But I’m extremely excited and happy to be part of the Maple Leafs organization.
Marleau, who turns 38 on the eve of the upcoming season, is coming off a 46-point campaign (27G, 19A), a year following the Sharks’ lone run to the Cup Final before falling to Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, veteran defenseman Joe Thornton celebrated his 38th birthday last Sunday by signing a one-year extension with the Sharks. Thornton struck his deal just after Marleau agreed to play for Toronto. In testing the free agent market for the first time in his career, San Jose gave him an $8 million contract.
The question is whether San Jose can remain playoff competitive without Marleau and with the aging Thornton, who last year managed just seven goals – fewest in a full season since his 1997 rookie year. However, he did garner 43 assists on San Jose’s top line, which is centered by team captain Joe Pavelski.
Here are some names you need to know about on the new Vegas Golden Knights roster, which signed only three players prior to last season (since they had nowhere to play), yet currently have more than 30 skaters through trades and free agency joining the dozen draft selections.
Marcus Kruger: Just acquired over the Independence Day weekend from Chicago, you’ve probably never heard about this Swedish forward yet he owns two Stanley Cup rings. Kruger’s true value is filling in almost anywhere, but because of his time in the league – 149th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft – his salary cap number is too high for the Blackhawks – but not for the Knights.
Shea Theodore: Spent time bouncing between the Anaheim Ducks and their AHL farm club in San Diego all last season, yet gained significant playing time in Stanley Cup play. Theodore could soon be the first-line defenseman for the Knights. “Theodore should step directly into the Knights’ top power play unit and be a top-four defenseman for VGK,” said Craig Elsten, the play-by-play radio announcer for the San Diego Gulls. “His skating ability is outstanding with a quick wrist shot and good puck moving skills.”
“Shea has been less consistent on the defensive side of the ice, and got caught in the numbers game in Anaheim, but could become one of the early fan favorites in the desert.”
Brayden McNabb: Every old school hockey fans loves a good hockey fight. McNabb will be the one putting up his dukes for Vegas. According to the Knights press office, ever since his junior days with the Kootenay Ice, McNabb has “been known as a big, mean customer who’s not shy about playing the body. He’s maintained this reputation throughout his NHL career, which has seen him play for both the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres.”
Ring the bell!
Goalies: Everyone knows about Marc-Andre Fleury, the three-time Stanley Cup champion from Pittsburgh, while betters should be well aware about Calvin Pickard, who emerged as the No. 1 backstop for lowly Colorado last season, playing 50 contests.
However, former Los Angeles Kings reserve Jean-Francois Berube, who spent the past two season with the NY Islanders, may be a keeper. In addition, when thinking about all of the Kings’ goalies who were traded or let go while Jonathan Quick emerged during L.A.’s Cup runs, there are a few others that most media members forgot about.
Ben Scrivens, the former ECAC goalie of the year for Cornell, was lost between Quick and Martin Jones, now the starter in San Jose, and was traded to Edmonton. With the Oilers, he set an NHL record for saves (59) in a regular season shutout in 2014. But Scrivens was disgruntled by how he claims the Oilers treated him in his home province of Alberta, eventually landing with HC Dynamo Minsk of the Russian-based KHL. He would prefer to return to North America – hint, hint.
Jonathan Bernier was sent from the LA Kings to Toronto. He re-landed in SoCal with the Ducks last season, so a move to southern Nevada would be easy on the nine-year veteran.
Maxime Lagace: The career minor-leaguer was recently signed, but will instead be a nice fit for the Chicago Wolves (AHL) and not here in Vegas. He most recently played for the Texas Stars (AHL) and Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) – yes, Idaho plays in the East Coast League.