After 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, forward Patrick Marleau left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2.
Marleau’s departure will oblige the Sharks to make changes on one of the most durable power-play units in recent NHL history. Auditions for his position will open in training camp, and it is expected coach Peter DeBoer will try any number of options.
The Sharks coaxed center Joe Thornton, 38, into staying after he, like Marleau, received free-agent overtures from a number of teams. San Jose also signed two core members — defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and goaltender Martin Jones — to long-term contract extensions, keeping them off the free agent market next year.
San Jose believes that a replacement for Marleau’s offense can be found from within. The hope is forwards Mikkel Boedker and Jannik Hansen can find some chemistry if they can play together for a full season. They also must figure out if Tomas Hertl is a third-line center or first-line left wing.
Here is what the Sharks look like today:
Brandon Bollig, F: A Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, Bollig played last season for Stockton of the American Hockey League, the Calgary Flames’ affiliate. He had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in 60 AHL games and provided leadership and physical play. The Sharks signed him as a free agent to a one-year, two-way contract reportedly worth $650,000 on July 4. … Antoine Bibeau, G: Signed out of the Maple Leafs’ system on a one-year, two-way contract reportedly worth $650,000 on July 1, Bibeau played in two NHL games last season and gives the Sharks depth behind Jones and Aaron Dell. Bibeau played 32 games with Toronto of the AHL and went 13-14-5 with a 3.08 goals-against average. The Sharks signed him as a free agent after the Maple Leafs did not tender a qualifying offer.
Patrick Marleau, LW: The Sharks’ all-time leader in games (1,493), goals (508), points (1,082), power-play goals (160), shorthanded goals (17), game-winning goals (98) and shots on goal (3,798) signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract (average annual value $6.25 million) with the Maple Leafs. He had 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) in 82 games last season. … David Schlemko, D: Selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21, he was traded the next day to the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. He had 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 62 games with the Sharks last season and averaged 16:44 of ice time. … Mirco Mueller, D: The No. 18 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft was traded with a fifth-round pick in 2017 to the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks on June 17. Mueller had one goal and one assist in two games with the Sharks last season and had 20 points (two goals, 18 assists) in 62 games with San Jose of the AHL.
On the cusp
Marcus Sorensen, RW: Another player who spent more time in the AHL last season, Sorensen, 25, played 19 NHL regular-season games (one goal, three assists) and six Stanley Cup Playoff games (one goal, one assist), a sign he may be ready for a greater role. He was chosen by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round (No. 106) in 2010 and signed with the Sharks as a free agent on May 13, 2016. … Ryan Carpenter, F: At 26, he’s a bit older than up-and-comers such as 20-year-old forward Timo Meier, San Jose’s first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2015 NHL Draft. But Carpenter, who was undrafted, is expected to compete for a roster spot. He played 11 games with the Sharks last season and had four points (two goals, two assists). He has 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists) in his past two AHL seasons. … Tim Heed, D: The Swedish defenseman, 26, was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the fifth round (No. 132) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He signed with San Jose on May 20, 2016, after his NHL rights were not retained by the Ducks. Heed had 56 points (14 goals, 42 assists) in 55 AHL games last season. He did not have a point in his NHL debut on Jan. 11.
What they still need
More scoring and additional depth on defense. Marleau’s departure took 27 goals out of a lineup that ranked 19th in the NHL last season. Defenseman Brent Burns, forward Joe Pavelski and center Logan Couture each scored at least 25 goals, but after that, production fell off dramatically to forwards Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson, who each scored 11. With Schlemko gone, there is a top-six opening at defenseman; if San Jose can’t fill it externally, there will be an opportunity for Heed or Dylan DeMelo.
Pete Jensen’s fantasy focus
Marleau’s longtime spot on the Sharks’ first power-play unit is up for grabs. That opening alongside Burns, Pavelski, Thornton and Couture is prime fantasy real estate that could lead to a bounce-back season for Hertl or Boedker, or a breakout season for Joonas Donskoi. Marleau, who turns 38 on Sept. 15, had 16 power-play points last season even with San Jose’s offensive regression.