Jason Demers hasn't played for the Sharks in several years, but he apparently stayed in touch with former teammate Patrick Marleau after getting traded from San Jose to Dallas early in the 2014-15 season.
Like many, Demers expected Marleau to remain with the Sharks for his career. Instead, the organization's all-time leading scorer signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2 as an unrestricted free agent.
That officially ended Marleau's 19-year run in teal.
"That was crazy," Demers, now with the Florida Panthers, told NHL.com. "For him to make that decision, I know him well personally and I know that was probably the biggest decision of his career. I don't think anybody understands on the outside how big of a decision that was for him. … In my head, after talking to him a little bit, I thought he was going to stay, but I think him and his family discussed it and I think it's going to be a great thing for him."
Many of Marleau's current Sharks teammates expressed hope that the forward, who had 27 goals and 46 points in 82 games last season, would return to San Jose. Already a team that struggled to score goals, the Sharks will enter 2017 training camp with a number of question marks up front among their forward group.
Joel Ward, coming off of a disappointing season himself, said he was "surprised" that Marleau departed. He praised Marleau's skating ability and work ethic, and figures he'll fit in well with a young and speedy Toronto team.
"I've seen [his speed] firsthand, so for the fans in Toronto, you can expect a guy who can really move but even a better guy off the ice," Ward said. "His work ethic is tremendous. In the gym, he is one of the strongest, and on the ice, he is one of the fastest guys leading the drills."
* * *
Marleau, who was spotted on Wednesday in San Jose wearing his new Maple Leafs colors, will be sporting his familiar number 12 in Toronto, too.
Toronto's Connor Brown wore the number for the Maple Leafs last season, posting 20 goals and 36 points in 82 games. Brown, though, suggested to the Toronto Sun that he was prepared to give the number up to the Maple Leafs' biggest offseason acquisition.
"It's a matter of respect," Brown told the newspaper.