NHL Free Agency: Why Patrick Marleau Isn't the Answer for the Maple Leafs

Bleacher ReportContributor IMay 24, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 22:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks reacts after scoring against backup goalkeeper Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of Game Five of their Western Conference Quaterfinals at HP Pavilion on April 22, 2010 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won 5-0.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Now that the San Jose Sharks have been eliminated from the NHL playoffs, let the Patrick Marleau rumor train run wild.

Marleau, along with teammate Evgeni Nabokov, are both pending unrestricted free agents this summer, and will look to make some serious coin. They are used to it, after all.

Right now, Marleau has a cap hit of $6.3 million per year, and in free agency it’s really tough to call what type of cash he’ll be commanding. I know one thing though, 40-goal scorers who tally 83 points don’t come cheap.

Many Toronto Leafs fans have this guy pegged as a potential target for general manager Brian Burke when July 1 rolls around. I’ve also heard that Tornonto head coach Ron Wilson has stated that he’d like to have Marleau as a player on his team any day, but I don’t feel the same way.

Marleau turns 31 in September, and though he boasts major point production, he plays with arguably the best pure center in the league in Joe Thornton.

Yes, I know there’s a bunch of Thornton haters out there, but even they can’t deny his place as one of the top distributors in the NHL 125, 114, 96, 86 and 89 that’s the past five years' point totals for Jumbo Joe. Absolutely unreal.

But back to Marleau.

It really isn’t the right direction for the Leafs to take right now.

With Luke Schenn looking for cash next year, and Jonas Gustavsson likely headed for more money the year after if he indeed becomes the No. 1 guy, Burke has to be careful with the Leafs' cap number.

A lot of people see Tomas Kaberle’s leaving, and Jean-Sabastian Giguere’s expiring contract next year as money the Leafs can blow on whomever they please. Jumping the gun, and throwing money at free agents is extremely risky and rarely works out, especially for a team in the Leafs’ situation.

Many teams will bring in high-powered superstars to put them over the edge for Cup contention, but you have to get to that level first.

The Sharks went and got Heatley to try something different. The Devils bolstered their lineup with Ilya Kovalchuk. The Hawks added Marian Hossa in the previous offseason.

But all of these teams had to get to a high-level first, then see what they had, what they could do money-wise, and decide to make a run at it.

The Leafs are years away from decisions like that. They will look to contend for playoff positions next season, give young players more time to develop, and see where it takes them. Adding Marleau to the mix is a step in the opposite direction.

An extremely expensive veteran is the last thing the Leafs want to add to the books right now. Maybe in a couple of years if they do well, and need a player or two to add to the lineup in order to take them to the next level, but not in the present.

Adding major money to the Leafs cap number on a veteran in order to try a quick fix to get back to the playoffs as soon as possible will only hurt Toronto in the long run.

The Leafs really need to tinker a little with the lineup right now, let the kids play some more, find out where they stand in the future, and then go from there.

I think Burke knows better than to add a contract like the one Marleau will seek to the Leafs cap, but him stating that he doesn’t want to commit to the five-year rebuild makes me a little uneasy.

Hopefully, the Maple Leafs can stay on the right track and avoid any crippling contracts that could hurt them down the road.

Email maplestirup@gmail.com