Hockey insider Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet’s “Tim and Sid” this evening. While most of the discussion in his segment was inconsequential to the Leafs, he left a subtle bit of speculation, connecting the Leafs to two of the San Jose Sharks’ all-time best players.
Sid Seixeiro: Friedge, what are the Leafs up to right now?
Friedman: You know, they’re like a vault. Good luck trying to get anything out of Lamoriello. I know there were rumblings yesterday about Colin Miller, I’m not sure about that. I would not be surprised, there have been some rumblings today, Renaut Lavoie* of TVA mentioned Nate Schmidt, I could definitely see that. If I was any NHL team, I think I’d have interest in Nate Schmidt, Washington is disappointed that he got away from them. You know, I’ve said before, I said on the radio station in the past week, and I do believe it, I think they know they’ve got two years to swing for the fences and I think they’re going to do it. I think they’re going to try to do something.
* Mis-attribution, referring to Louis Jean of TVA
That’s great to hear some backing on, but the real meat comes when they start talking about big swings, a proposition we’ve brought up here since last summer and started to really double down on this month. In that, he’s brought up a very familiar pair of players to any long-time fan.
Tim Micallef: This Leafs team is in an interesting spot too, because eventually, people believe that they’re going to have to spend money. Do you think one of those “swing for the fences” includes one of their young forwards going in a deal or for someone you believe could help this team?
Friedman: Well, it’s possible, there’s no question about that. But, you know, you could also do it through free agency. One guy who I’ve kind of wondered about a little bit, if Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton reach free agency, Mike Babcock’s had Patrick Marleau through two Olympic Gold Medals and a World Cup. He’s had Joe Thornton through one of those medals, and a World Cup. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I wonder. If those guys hit the market, could Toronto try to bring them for a year or two? He likes both those guys. So I just wonder, if they get the of opportunity, would that be the kind of player they would take a shot at.
That’s the good stuff, even if speculatory. While not the lights-out superstar and clear first ballot Hall of Famer that he once was, the 37-year-old Thornton scored 7 goals and added 43 assists in 79 games this year, and was San Jose’s best player against the Edmonton Oilers despite a torn ACL and MCL, which he’s in the middle of recovering from as we speak. Marleau, on the other hand, continued to light the lamp like he always has at the same age as Thornton, hitting the 500 career goal plateau and scoring 27 tallies in 82 games this year, his highest since 2013/14.
Both players would bring a wealth of veteran experience (especially for the big three; the two know all the pressures of being a young superstar as 1st and 2nd overall picks in 1997) in a package that is still very, very good at the game. Marleau definitely still a jump in his step, and while Thornton’s pace is a little slower than the Leafs, he still has the vision and defensive awareness to compensate for it. Both players remained above 1.3 even strength points per hour this year and Thornton put up an obscene for his age +5.3 relative Corsi. Jumbo Joe also has the always hyped up Sault Ste. Marie connection, having played for the Greyhounds 21 years ago.
The way I see it, if you can get these guys locked down to one-year deals, I really don’t care what the price tag is. They’re two of the best players of the last generation, period, and they’re still keeping up with the current one. The Leafs are already good at putting the puck in the net, but why not get better if the opportunity arises? You’re not going to be able to get an offensive powerhouse like this to level the balance sheet ever again; strike while the iron his hot and get yourselves, and two long-deserving legends their rings.