Prior to the start of the season, it seemed to be virtually a foregone conclusion that it would be Patrick Marleau’s last in San Jose. After all, the veteran of 19 NHL campaigns will turn 38 before opening night in 2017-18 and will reportedly be seeking a multiyear pact this summer as a free agent. However, a recent hot streak that has seen Marleau record seven goals in his last five games may have moved the needle some on the likelihood he remains in Northern California. According to Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area, his return may ultimately hinge entirely on his willingness to accept a one-year deal worth something in the neighborhood of $3MM to $4MM.
Kurz compares the current situation with Marleau to that of Dan Boyle, who hit free agency at the age of 37 in the summer of 2014 and left the Sharks because the two sides couldn’t agree on the length of a new deal. Boyle would ink a two-year deal with the New York Rangers and as Kurz writes, the longtime Sharks blue liner was “devastated” to leave the Bay Area. Marleau has tallied 19 goals in 52 games this season and could attract multiyear offers on the open market this summer based on that strong production, in which case it’s probable he won’t be donning a Sharks jersey in 2017-18.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Division:
- Like Marleau, it seemed likely that Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller would have a new home by the time the 2017-18 season started. The Canucks were expected by many to be a lottery team in 2016-17 and with Miller in the final year of his deal he would have represented an interesting rental asset the team could have cashed in to advance their rebuild. However, with Vancouver surprisingly still in the playoff hunt and with Miller turning in a solid performance between the pipes, the chances of the 36-year-old sticking around for another year or two have increased, as Ben Kuzma writes in a piece for the Vancouver Sun. Kuzma notes that good teams need quality play in net, pointing out the difference between former Canucks bench boss Alain Vigneault and the recently fired Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis. Vigneault, who has been fortunate to have Henrik Lundqvist, Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo man the pipes during his coaching career, just inked a two-year extension and received a raise to $4MM annually. The Blues have received lackluster play in goal this season and that fact played a role in Hitch’s termination. If Miller is willing to take a short-term deal to stay with Vancouver, he could provide a solid bridge to top prospect Thatcher Demko.
- While the Oilers have received better play from their blue line in 2016-17, the team’s top-four has struggled of late, leading David Staples of the Edmonton Journal to suggest shuffling not just the defense corps but also the club’s forward lines. Staples tracks contributions that lead to scoring chances for and mistakes which lead to scoring chances against, and of late too many of the team’s key players are responsible for more of the latter than the former. The scribe feels the team could elevate Matt Benning and/or Brandon Davidson into the top-four, spreading the defensive responsibilities around some. Up front Staples thinks it’s time to split up Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, perhaps putting the struggling Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on McDavid’s wing. Ultimately, if the team continues to struggle, it’s possible Edmonton will circle back to the trade market to seek additional depth.