The San Jose Sharks dipped their fins into the free agent waters on Tuesday, signing two of their former employees in forwards Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto to one-year free agent contracts. The team did not announce any of the financial details for either deal. San Jose’s general manager Doug Wilson sounded very pleased with the Marleau signing in particular when he announced it on Tuesday.
“Patrick is one of the most iconic players in San Jose Sharks history,” Wilson said. “The leadership he brings on and off the ice has been well documented over his fantastic NHL career and his competitive fire to win is still burning strong. Patrick’s lead-by-example demeanor is inspiring and continues to resonate with our group of young players.”
Though the 41-year-old’s best days are surely behind him, he will no doubt provide the Sharks with a great locker room presence and solid veteran leadership and experience, both of which San Jose will need after a rough 2019-2020 campaign. They didn’t make the playoffs for just the second time since 2003 and they only won 29 games, their worst mark since 2003 as well. No wonder Betway’s putting their odds at 51.00 (seventh highest in the NHL) to win Lord Stanley’s Cup next year.
The arrival of a couple of familiar, veteran faces could help the Sharks to right the ship and get back into the playoffs for next season. The return of Marleau, who can basically be called Mr. Shark at this point, will be especially nice for the franchise.
The Saskatchewan native started out his NHL career with the Sharks in 1997 and remained there chasing cups for the next two decades. He is the Sharks’ all-time leader in goals (518), points (1,102), and games (1,551) and led them to their only Stanley Cup Final in 2016, which they unfortunately lost to the Penguins.
Marleau finally moved on to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, where he stayed for two years and had even less playoff luck than he did in San Jose. He was eventually traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, who bought out the old man’s contract, allowing him to sign back with the Sharks for just $700k before this past season. The struggling Sharks moved Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the deadline in the hopes that they could finally bring him playoff glory, but alas, the Pens were ousted from the playoff bracket during the play-in round.
Now he’s right back where he started, and he’s got an old friend with him. Nieto, a left-winger, has never been the caliber of player that Marleau has been in his career, but he was a solid part of that 2016 Stanley Cup Final Sharks team before moving onto the Colorado Avalanche for a few seasons. The Sharks were just awful last year, so while the signing of these two familiar faces is helpful, San Jose still has a lot of work to do.