Who else but Patrick Marleau to discuss in today's Sharks mailbag? We'll save the trade deadline questions for another day, but for now…
It's fair to say that the chances have probably improved from the start of the season that pending free agent Patrick Marleau will return for a 20th season in teal. The 37-year-old has been the team's best forward for the last handful of games, capped off by his historic 500th career goal on Thursday in Vancouver.
What his return could depend on more than anything, though, is if he's willing to accept just a one-year deal. Looking at it from the Sharks' perspective, I'm not sure offering him a multi-year deal makes sense.
Not only do the Sharks have some promising young players at the wing position in Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc that are still growing their games, other forwards like Danny O'Regan, Nikolay Goldobin, Rourke Chartier and Marcus Sorensen could break through at some point. Further, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson believes that the wing position is the easiest to integrate new players into the fold, whether they are young players or free agents. I also believe part of the reason that Mikkel Boedker got a four-year contract over the summer was the assumption that Marleau would not return.
While fitting Marleau in on a one-year deal around $3-4 million probably wouldn't be much of an issue for 2017-18, several Sharks players are going to be due some hefty raises after that. Marc-Edouard Vlasic could be in line for a Brent Burns-like payday, as he heads into the final year of his current contract. Martin Jones could also get a monster extension this summer, when he's eligible to open talks on a new deal. Tomas Hertl's current three-year contract will also be up after 2018-19.
Any multi-year contract extension for Marleau would have to be done with that in mind, as Vlasic, Jones and Hertl should all be viewed as vital pieces for the next several seasons.
I can envision the situation with Marleau playing out similarly to how it did with another organizational legend – Dan Boyle.
After the 2013-14 season, in which it was evident he was slowing down, the then-37-year-old Boyle wanted a multi-year contract. The Sharks were only willing to offer an incentive-laden one-year deal, and Boyle ended up going to the Rangers on a two-year contract. He admitted later he was "devestated" to leave San Jose, but that's how the business works.
Whether Marleau would accept a one-year deal or not, it allows the Sharks to placate some potentially upset fans, too. If Marleau insists on a multi-year deal and goes somewhere else, the Sharks could reply by telling their Marleau-loving fans, "hey, we tried…"
For now, though, the Sharks should just continue letting a motivated Marleau play for his next deal, wherever it may be. There should be no rush for them to get something done before the season concludes.
Historically, Marleau is more effective when he's in such situations, and both parties are benefitting from that right now.