NHL Free Agency

NHL rumors: Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau confident he'll find new team

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USATSI

NHL rumors: Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau confident he'll find new team

Patrick Marleau is not on an NHL roster, but he'll reportedly keep trying to get on one.

Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported Saturday on "Hockey Night in Canada" that the veteran center continues to prepare for the season, and there is "some confidence in [Marleau's] camp" that the former Shark "will indeed find his way back to the NHL."

"[Part of the reason I think he didn't end up with a team to this point is he's being selective about where he goes," Johnston said. "Wants to stay close to home with his family back in San Jose, and he was focused on the Sharks in July, and ultimately they chose to go another direction. But he remains confident that he's gonna get another job this season."

Marleau, who has played more games and scored more points as a Shark than any other player in franchise history, was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason in a salary dump by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes bought out Marleau after they couldn't convince him to play for the team, and the 40-year-old has been a free agent since.

While Marleau said he thought a return to the Sharks would be a "good fit," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz that the team would give its young forwards an opportunity to earn roster spots in training camp. The Sharks opened the season with 21-year-old Lean Bergmann, 22-year-old Danil Yurtaikin and 23-year-old Dylan Gambrell in their lineup in Wednesday's season opener.

Marleau scored just 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 2019-20, by far his lowest total in an 82-game season. He also scored on just 9.9 percent of his shots, the second-lowest conversion rate of his career.

[RELATED: Why Sharks must shake off poor start heading into road trip]

Marleau is not the player he once was, but his experience and durability -- he has not missed a regular-season game since the 2008-09 season -- should end up appealing to some team. Whether or not it's one close enough to Marleau's family, however, remains to be seen. The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have ample salary-cap space, but both SoCal teams are embracing a youth movement up front. The Vegas Golden Knights just out-scored the Sharks 9-2 across two games and also are up against the salary cap, as are the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks.

If he's focused on the Sharks' closest geographic rivals, Marleau's waiting game might continue.

NHL rumors: Sharks 'don't want' to sign Patrick Marleau; Coyotes do

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AP

NHL rumors: Sharks 'don't want' to sign Patrick Marleau; Coyotes do

Former Sharks captain Patrick Marleau is skating in San Jose, but a reunion reportedly isn't in the cards. 

That's because the "Sharks don't want him," the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons wrote in his Saturday column. 

"Apparently, Arizona does, but Marleau may not want to play there," Simmons wrote. "This [offseason] isn’t turning out the way he hoped it would."

The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Marleau, 39, to the Carolina Hurricanes this summer in order to clear salary-cap space. Marleau, who left the Sharks for the Leafs and signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with Toronto in 2017, was then bought out days later. Marleau's family moved back to San Jose this summer, and the veteran forward said he wants to play closer to them. He told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun that he considered the Sharks "a good fit," but admitted he would be open to playing elsewhere in the Western Conference. 

In his 21st NHL season, Marleau scored 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists). That represented the lowest total in an 82-game season of Marleau's career since his rookie campaign, even though Leafs coach Mike Babcock played Marleau over 16 minutes per night. The Sharks had plenty of departures up front this summer -- with ex-captain Joe Pavelski chief among them -- but San Jose is primed to use young wingers Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc in bigger roles next season. That doesn't leave much room for Marleau among the top six forwards, and the Sharks have younger prospects knocking on the door who can push for roles on the third and fourth lines. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks should, shouldn't retire Pavelsk's jersey first]

The Coyotes could have room for Marleau, especially once forward Marian Hossa is placed on long-term injured reserve. Arizona only has just shy of $200,000 in salary-cap space according to Cap Friendly, but teams can exceed the salary cap by 10 percent during the summer. The Desert Dogs fought through countless injuries to challenge for a playoff spot, and Marleau would add experience to a forward corps that now features scoring winger Phil Kessel. 

NHL training camps are about a month away, and there might not be a quick resolution for the longest-tenured player in Sharks history with so many restricted free agents -- like Mitch Marner, Marleau's former Toronto teammate -- still unsigned.

NHL free-agency review: How Vegas Golden Knights stack up in Pacific Division

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USATSI

NHL free-agency review: How Vegas Golden Knights stack up in Pacific Division

Editor’s note: NHL free agency was fast and furious, and the moves that teams did (and did not) make set the tone for next season. All week, we’ll examine the Sharks’ Pacific Division rivals, and whether their free-agency approach put them in better, worse or the same position. Today, we dive into the Vegas Golden Knights.

The 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs can't be talked about without Game 7 between the Sharks and the Golden Knights in the Western Conference first round

In addition to being the ultimate edge-of-your-seat viewing experience, it gave the rest of the hockey world a glimpse into the bitter rivalry that has very quickly manifested between these two teams.

Despite being around for only two seasons, the Golden Knights have become a force to be reckoned with. And with most of the Pacific Division teams having down seasons, Vegas has emerged as San Jose's biggest competition on the West Coast.

So while the Sharks have a lot to focus on this offseason in terms of their own roster, it doesn't hurt to take a peek at what the opposition is up to, especially a team with no cap space to work with.

Here's a look at what Vegas has been up to since the free-agent market opened up.

Players who stayed

Vegas has been incredibly busy getting its players signed to deals this offseason, keeping important pieces of its roster together. They made the most noise in late June when they signed high-scoring center William Karlsson to an eight-year deal. The top-line pivot ranked second on the team last year with 56 regular-season points.

Vegas also kept some of their depth from last season, locking up forwards Tomas Nosek and Brandon Pirri, and backup goalie Malcolm Subban. 

The Golden Knights still have a couple of players hanging out as free agents. But given they currently have zero room under the salary cap, according to CapFriendly, there will be moves made before anyone else gets signed.

Players who left

The lack of breathing room under the salary cap has, as expected, signaled the exit of a handful of players Vegas had on its roster last season.

Defenseman Colin Miller was traded to the Buffalo Sabres and forward Erik Haula was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes ahead of free agency. Center Ryan Carpenter signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first couple hours of free agency, and French forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare became one of many players scooped up by the Colorado Avalanche that same day.

Rumors have also been swirling that RFA Nikita Gusev could be headed to another team given Vegas doesn't have any room left under the cap, but there could also be another trade in the works to free up some money.

While the moves leave roles to be filled on Vegas' roster, it allows some of its promising young prospects to step up. The Golden Knights likely aren't done making moves this summer.

Better, worse, or the same?

Even with some pieces being moved around this offseason, the core of the Golden Knights is still intact.

With no cap space to work with, Vegas probably will make more moves this offseason. The Knights still, however, look like they're going to be the Sharks' toughest division rival for another season.