NHL Trade Deadline

Patrick Marleau believes 'door is open' for Sharks reunion next season

Patrick Marleau believes 'door is open' for Sharks reunion next season

SAN JOSE -- In the Sharks' first game of 2020, Patrick Marleau set up Logan Couture for a go-ahead goal in the first period of an eventual 3-2 overtime road win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Having lost 11 of its previous 13 games, San Jose hoped to generate and sustain some momentum coming out of that victory, but it was short-lived. The Sharks would win their next game, but would follow that up with a heartbreaking 6-5 OT loss in the nation's capital. The very next game, Couture sustained a fractured ankle, removing him from the lineup for the next 17 contests.

In truth, San Jose's season was sunk before Couture's injury, but when the captain went down, the reality of the situation set in. The Sharks weren't going to the playoffs -- well, not with San Jose, at least.

When it became apparent that the Sharks' playoff hopes had been dashed, general manager Doug Wilson had both a responsibility and a preference. He needed to reinvigorate the franchise with a host of new assets through trades, but also desired to put Marleau in a position to win the Stanley Cup that has evaded him thus far throughout his 22-year NHL career. So when the trade deadline came around and the Penguins came calling, Wilson presented Marleau with an option, and the Sharks' all-time leader in points, goals and games played took it.

"Obviously, things didn't go as planned here in San Jose, getting in the playoffs," Marleau said prior to the Sharks-Penguins game at SAP Center on Saturday night. "So, this opportunity presented itself, and it's not like I've got another 10 years to go, so a great opportunity for myself to come here and get in the playoffs and have another shot at winning."

It wasn't an easy decision for Marleau. He had previously left the franchise that drafted him as a free agent, only to return after two seasons. The conditions were perfect for a reunion, but it didn't end as both sides as hoped, and now, Marleau is a Penguin.

"It's difficult, especially when family and kids are involved," Marleau explained. "You have to weigh those options as well. But my family is very supportive. They mean the world to me, but they wanted me to have a shot and I was able to take it with their support."

"They were excited for me," he added. "They're well aware of what a championship means and how important it is to me, so they want that for me and they're cheering me on."

Just as Marleau's family will be rooting for him to win the Cup with Pittsburgh, so too will the vast majority of his now-former -- some twice former -- teammates in San Jose. They want to see their longtime friend fill the hole on his Hall of Fame résumé, and would welcome him back for a third time next season, whether or not he is successful in that endeavor. 

[RELATED: Couture rooting for Marleau, 'would love' return to Sharks]

From the sounds of it, that feeling is mutual.

"Yeah, I think maybe the door is open for me to come back," Marleau said of a potential return to the Sharks. "I would definitely like to play another season, so that would be good."

Entering Saturday night, Marleau is 50 games away from tying Gordie Howe's all-time NHL record for games played (1,767). Assuming he plays another season, he is extremely likely to eclipse that milestone.

It would only be right if he did so wearing a Sharks uniform.

Patrick Marleau gave Sharks needed boost, and team wants him to return

Patrick Marleau gave Sharks needed boost, and team wants him to return

For only the second time in his 22-year NHL career, Patrick Marleau will take the ice at SAP Center as a visiting player when the Sharks host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night. San Jose's all-time leader in points, goals and games played was shipped to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, but only after showing the entire league that he still has plenty left in the tank.

That much was evident from his first game back in a Sharks uniform on Oct. 10. San Jose had dropped its first four games of the season, and turned to a very familiar face for a jumpstart. Marleau, who had recently been bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, was ready and waiting.

"During the beginning of the season when we were struggling, the highlight was when we signed him and he came in -- I think it was the Chicago game -- I think he scored two that night," Sharks interim coach Bob Boughner said following Saturday's morning skate. "I think it got our team out of that rut we were in at the start of the season. He played some great hockey for us. He was used throughout the lineup in different situations, different lines and he's just a consistent performer. I think that's why Pittsburgh obviously reached out and grabbed him. You know what you're getting from him every night. He's a responsible player, and more than anything, he sets a great example for the young guys. It'll be nice to see him back playing in the game tonight."

The Penguins acquired Marleau as part of their playoff push. The Sharks, meanwhile, will not qualify for the postseason, and will use the remainder of the regular season to give more opportunities to younger players, who no longer have Marleau around to model themselves after. The 58 games many of them did spend with him, though, left a lasting impact.

"It was unreal," rookie defenseman Mario Ferraro recalled of Marleau's unexpected arrival. "You come to the team and you've got [Joe Thornton] on the team, and then not even a month later, you've got Patty Marleau coming in. He's just a veteran guy that's been in the league a long time. He's had a lot of accomplishments and he's done a lot of great things with his career. It's just special to see what he's capable of doing still at the age of 40, and for me to be able to be on the same team as him is a privilege. It's really special. It's something I'll never forget as a young player. When I get older, I'll be able to say I played with a Hall of Famer."

The one major thing missing from Marleau's Hall of Fame resume is a Stanley Cup, and he's in a great spot to pursue one with a very deep and talented Penguins team. Entering Saturday night, Marleau is 50 games away from tying Gordie Howe's all-time NHL record for games played (1,767), a milestone Sharks captain Logan Couture believes is well within reach.

"I believe he can," Couture said of Marleau's ability to play another season. "I think he can still play at this level and be effective and contribute. Certain minutes, whether it's third, fourth line or on the second power play, he still knows how to score goals and go to the right areas. He's still an effective player in my mind."

[RELATED: Couture opens up on trying first season as Sharks' captain]

Couture regrets that he didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Marleau in-person following the trade, but he did reach out to him over the phone. They've spent parts of nine seasons together as teammates in San Jose, and Couture wouldn't mind if that turned into a decade.

"I would love to have Patty back," Couture said. "Unfortunately, it's not my call. I realize this is a business and Doug [Wilson] is going to do whatever he can to make our team successful next season. So, if Patty's here, we'll be happy to have him. If not, and he's playing somewhere else, we'll be pulling for him until we play him."

"Happy that he's on a team that has a chance to make the playoffs," Couture added. "I'll be cheering for him every night but tonight."

Logan Couture reflects on difficult first season as Sharks' captain

Logan Couture reflects on difficult first season as Sharks' captain

SAN JOSE -- Logan Couture could sense the Sharks needed a boost. Whether he could provide one was another matter. The team’s captain hadn’t played or practiced in seven weeks while rehabilitating a fractured ankle that might’ve still been unfit for duty during a dark time.

Couture knew that, even after a fired head coach and several serious injuries to star players, Tuesday was another low. General manager Doug Wilson traded Patrick Marleau, Brenden Dillion and Barclay Goodrow leading up to Monday’s trade deadline. Joe Thornton expressed interest in being moved and initial disappointment staying put.

Oh, and the Sharks had lost four straight on an extended road trip set to end that night in Philadelphia. Couture wasn’t sure if he was ready heading into game day and could’ve been forgiven for extending his absence to increase odds of returning in fine form. After all, the man hadn’t even practiced yet. He suited up and played the Flyers anyway.

Coming back in times of need is nothing new. Let’s not forget Couture’s the guy who played with two facial fractures and wiring to keep his teeth in place. That was the 2016-17 playoffs.

He still came rushing back, even with this season already dead and buried.

“It was an emotional 24 hours seeing a lot of friends leave the team,” Couture told NBC Sports Bay Area on Thursday morning. “Honestly, it really was difficult. We understood the circumstances, [that the Sharks would be sellers at the deadline], but we were still a fragile group that day after losing guys. I figured I should go out be with the team.

"I wish I could’ve been better, but I did the best I could.”

Couture’s form wasn’t great in a loss to the Flyers, but his presence gave the Sharks a lift.

“It was an important time for him to get back into the lineup for a couple reasons,” Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said. “First of all, it was good for him to get that first game over with. Also, with the situation that surrounded us on the road trip with the rumors and the trade deadline.

"After losing some good people it was important to see our leader come back into the lineup.”

Couture’s initial return brought positivity to a downtrodden group. His next appearance did even more. His overtime goal beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Thursday night and kickstarted a prolonged homestand where the Sharks hope to rebound despite losing so much talent to injury or trades.

“He played a ton of minutes, top-line minutes, on the penalty kill and power play,” Boughner said after a big win. “He did faceoffs when we need him and then hit the game-winner. That’s what those kinds of guys do. Logan leads by example.”

That’s his focus now that the Sharks seem set on playing young, fresh faces now seeing significant ice time as the organization plans for the future.

That doesn’t happen much in these parts. The team’s first-round pick way back in 2007 has missed the playoffs just once in 10 previous seasons. The second time’s coming this spring, in Couture’s first year as captain following an injury-impacted, subpar campaign by his own lofty standards.

Couture has taken that inevitability hard, looking inward first while trying to figure out what went wrong with the team and how to fix it.

“It has been difficult, and I’ve had a lot of learning experiences,” Couture said. “I think I could do several things better. I just don’t think I’ve done enough this year. I look at myself first and wish things were different.”

[RELATED: Why Couture has 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun' as goal song]

This major ankle injury and the surgery to repair it was the hardest to handle. It wasn’t rehab or the pain involved that bothered him. Couture hated watching his team struggle without being able to help or lead from the ice as he’s accustomed.

“It has been a tough year from a team standpoint and from a personal standpoint,” Couture said. “It has been difficult with me being injured and not traveling the last couple months until this last road trip. I have been away from these guys and that’s never fun. When you’re away from the team you almost don’t feel like you’re a part of the group.

"I think a lot of the leaders around here did a great job and carried a message to the young guys to work hard and show they deserve to be here.”

Couture’s primary focus is helping get guys in the locker room ready for the next game. He is, however, keeping an eye on the big picture. That makes sense considering he’s going to be around a while, working under a $64 million contract with a modified no-trade clause that runs through the 2026-27 season.

He’s a respected locker room leader who runs a leadership-by-committee outfit to lean on experience from an established veteran core. Those that remain from that group and are healthy have leaned on each other during a trying period they hope will be remembered as a speed bump on a run of sustained success.

“It has really been tough. There’s no softer way to put it,” Couture said. “This experience has been very, very difficult. Experiencing adversity like this, it’s all about how to react to it.

“… Our goal right now is pretty simple. We want to play as hard as we possibly can during the games we have left. We’re not going to make the playoffs, but we can finish the year strong as a team and as individuals. That’s what you want. That’s what we need. You don’t want to head into the summer regretting how you finished. You want to give everything you can.

"It will be weird not playing in April, but hopefully we learn and get better after everything we’ve been through.”