Shark-Infested Blogger

May 29, 2010 1:59 PM

Patrick Marleau: Future in Teal?

4414214037_9514cb2be9.jpgPatrick Marleau seemed to be on his way out of town after a poor first round this year. More than a mere symbol of the team's past playoff failures, he contributed to those failures with only 20 points and a minus-10 rating in his past 36 playoff games. And after a good season, a raise was likely coming his way from the $6.3 million salary he earned in 2009-10.

Then he scored seven goals (two of which were game winners) and two assists with an even rating in the eight games he played in from there out, and the decision became complicated again. With his play elevating, he certainly will be even more costly to keep, but also harder to let go.

When you have had trouble scoring in the last five post-seasons, how do you dump the one player who is your best post-season goal scorer? And since I have already suggested the Sharks should not re-sign Evgeni Nabokov, losing Marleau would also cut ties with the last player involved in victories for the franchise in the conference finals.

All of this would seem to make Marleau the most important unrestricted free agent to re-sign. However, this team has five other free agents to sign who are all due raises and has to find money for another starting goaltender.

They simply cannot afford to have another player making over $6.5 million (Dan Boyle is making $6,666,666.67, Joe Thornton is making $7.2 million, and Dany Heatley $7.5 million), and Marleau will easily command that on the open market. Thus, the reality is that unless he is willing to sign for a hometown discount and remain the fourth-highest paid member of the team (or they trade Thornton or Heatley), the team will have to let him go.

However, there is a reasonable chance he will take less to stay where he is the face of the only franchise he has ever been with. Thus, I believe he will sign for $6.5 million per year if the Sharks give him other concessions--perhaps continuing the no-trade clause or offering either a one-year deal to give him a chance to earn big money next season or the security of a long-term deal if he prefers--and remain a Shark.

On the other hand, there are rumblings that Jerome Iginla wants out of Calgary. Contrary to the prevailing attitude among hockey fans, Iggy would not be a step up from Patty: True, Marleau scores at 75 percent Iggy's pace throughout his career in the regular season and 86 percent his pace in the post-season since 2004. But last year, Marleau had 12 more goals, two more assists, 36 fewer penalty minutes, and was plus-21 rather than minus-two. He also has eight post-season series wins in his career to Iggy's three (1-1 head-to-head).

Moreover, Iggy is more than two years older and makes $7 million, about a half-million more than the stated limit on what the team can afford to pay Marleau. But he does better fit the team's needs--a passionate and physical player in front of the net they lack. I could see Marleau wanting to go to the team closest to his hometown, and Iggy wanting to finally be paired with a player (Joe Thornton) who can dish him the puck. A sign-and-trade makes a lot of sense if the Flames are willing.

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