It was a controversial signing to say the least. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed San Jose Sharks legend Patrick Marleau to a three-year deal in free agency worth $6,250,000 annually last summer to give the team not only a player who could produce offensively, but a veteran leader who’s seen it all.
Even though a $6,250,000 cap hit has the potential to look hideous in year three when Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander are beyond their entry-level deals, Marleau proved why the signing was worth it last night.
morgan rielly with the stretch pass off the boards and then a son and his father doing the rest. wow. heartwarming. pic.twitter.com/ZysU3KwMVF— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) April 17, 2018
Under a minute after the Bruins scored an ugly goal from the point to tie the game at 1-1, Marleau came through with his first of the playoff to give the Leafs the lead back.
DADDY MARLEAU TAKING CARE OF THE INSURANCE pic.twitter.com/kPfkgyHI2L— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) April 17, 2018
Then, in the third period, with the Bruins down by one and putting on the pressure, Marleau found the back of the net again to give the Leafs some much-needed insurance.
It sounds like an old, beaten narrative, something for feel-good movies rather than hard, objective analysis, but you could easily see the value that Marleau brings to the team last night. The two goals that he scored were massive in keeping this series alive. First he responds immediately after a momentum-shifting goal for Boston, then he comes through in the clutch as Boston was really getting their foot on the gas.
This year’s series is a learning experience for the Leafs. Last year, it was about just being there. This year, it’s about managing expectations and coming out and playing a very good team when winning is absolutely possible. The team went down 2-0 but fought back in an admirable way and Marleau played a key role in that.
Sure, the contract might not be too hot when he’s 40 years old, but the value he’s providing to the team right now is noticeable. The Leafs are getting everything they wanted out of Patrick Marleau in regards to production and leadership. Sometimes you have to live in the moment. The cap difficulty the contract might put the team in by 2019-20 is well worth him leading by example and helping this young team pull itself out of the gutter in an important playoff series for the group’s development.
At this moment, yesterday’s win was the biggest of Matthews, Nylander, and Marner’s young careers. Without Marleau, it’s hard to say if it happens. That’s worth $6,250,000.