Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Patrick Marleau, C/LW
Age: 36 (turns 37 on Sept. 15)
Salary cap hit: $6.67 million, pending unrestricted free agent
2015-16 year in review: It was an eventful season for the Sharks’ all-time leading scorer both on and off the ice, culminating in the forward’s first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 18 seasons of NHL hockey – all in teal.
First, his production. Marleau finished fourth on the Sharks in scoring with 48 points, and third in goals with 25. It was his lowest point total since he hit the same number in 2007-08. What was more concerning, though, was that Marleau went through long stretches of not being very effective five-on-five. He had just 22 points at even strength, tied for eighth on the team with Justin Braun, while posting a team-worst minus-22 rating. He added 13 points (5g, 8a) in 24 playoff games.
Off of the ice, Marleau was upset in October from not receiving a letter as part of the club’s new official leadership structure, and was ready to move on to another club. That didn’t happen, of course, and when the Sharks surged in the second half of the season with Marleau skating as the third line center, a trade didn’t make sense for either party anymore. Still, there were some blunt suggestions from coach Pete DeBoer during the team’s playoff run that he and Marleau might not have been on the same page throughout the year.
2016-17 outlook: There’s little question now that Marleau is in decline, but he’s also about to turn 37 years old. His longevity and his ability to still be an effective player this late in his career is commendable, even if he’s not the guy he was a few years ago. He’s also one of the most durable players in the league, and remarkably has not missed a game since the 2008-09 season. It's probably not said often enough, either, that Marleau has always acted with class, including when the trade winds were swirling about him early in the year.
The biggest question surrounding the forward now, though, is whether will he be OK with what will probably be an even more reduced role this season. Mikkel Boedker’s addition likely removes Marleau from the top six, and the Sharks have made no secrets about wanting to make Tomas Hertl a center as soon as possible. Would Marleau accept playing on the third line left wing?
From the Sharks’ perspective, they could be counting on him to go all-out in what is a contract year, assuming the forward wants to extend his career after this season. His only 40-goal campaign came in 2009-10 before he inked an extension the following summer, and when the Sharks signed him to his current three-year contract on Jan. 24, 2014, Marleau had 47 points in 51 games up to that point.
With players like Boedker and Jonas Donskoi bringing more to the table offensively now than Marleau does, and youngsters like Timo Meier and Nikolay Goldobin pushing for roster spots at the wing position, Marleau’s place on the Sharks has never been more in jeopardy than it is now. He may rise to the challenge as a pending UFA and remain a key cog. If he doesn’t, this will almost assuredly be his last season in San Jose.