Almost a month ago, I posted my considerations for the potential free agent signing of Patrick Marleau to the Kings. You can find that article here.
I had previous arrived at the conclusion that “While I would love to see (Marleau’s) speed and shot on the Kings, I do not believe he is the missing piece for which Dean Lombardi has been preciously saving his cap space.”
Since then, Marleau’s hockey season has stormed through to the conference finals and as of last night, petered out completely. Marleau may have just played his last game as a Shark, and a highly disappointing one at that. The question is not so much whether the Sharks will want to keep Marleau, but rather, whether Marleau wants to stay. The Sharks likely can not afford to hold on to both Marleau and goalie Evgeni Nabakov, and will have to make a choice. Now, if given the choice, would you keep a goalie who has never won you anything and in the same year has completely crumbled under the pressure of an Olympic game and been bested by a formerly unknown goaltender in Anti Niemi, or do you keep the forward, your former captain, who just cracked the 40 goal mark for the first time in his career and was the only Sharks’ player capable of consistent scoring in the most important 4 games of the teams’ season?
I would keep Marleau. But if I were Marleau, I wouldn’t keep the Sharks.
Not all agree, however. Today, The Fourth Period reported that Marleau hopes to stay in San Jose. They quote Patrick (through the Mercury News) as saying “There’s lots of time to think about that… We love San Jose. We’ll see how every thing works out.”
Perhaps TFP sees those words as earnest intentions not to test free agency, but “There’s lots of time to think” means more to me than “We love San Jose.” That sounds like Marleau is thinking ‘I like this city, but this team may be better off in my rear view mirror’ (just to be perfectly clear, that is a hypothetical quote/thought, Marleau didn’t say that).
So, let us re-evaluate the impact adding Marleau this summer could have on the Kings. In the aforementioned article, I accused Marleau of not picking up his game enough in the post season. Since that time Marleau has dispelled any such notion.
In 14 games, Marleau put up 8 goals and 5 assists for 13 points. 5 of those goals came in the conference finals, as he single-handedly provided the Sharks with their only shade of offense. Marleau scored 5, while the team as a whole scored 7 against the Blackhawks.
That says a lot of bad, bad things about the Sharks, but is a monumental praise for Marleau. Marleau played this post-season with fire and tenacity. Using his speed at every turn to break loose of defenders. Using his smarts to find soft spots in the opposing defense’s coverage. Unleashing his shot regularly to the dismay of unprepared goalies.
So, does Marleau’s near-dominant performance against the Blackhawks warrant him more consideration as the Kings’ ‘missing piece’.
I believe that yes, it does.
I still maintain that Kovalchuk is the man to go after, considering that he is younger than Patrick, more deadly and I think will not have as much of a higher cap hit compared to Marleau as common logic has led fans to believe. Marleau could very easily cost over 7 million per season. However, providing Kovalchuk does not fit in terms of dollars and cents, I am officially opening my arms to the thought of Marleau with a crown on his chest. He has earned it, and had the Kings possessed such a scorer in this year’s playoffs, perhaps Chicago isn’t celebrating their trip to the Cup finals today.