This one’s a bombshell: Patrick Marleau has signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $6.25 million a season.

With this signing, the Leafs have added to their enviable forward depth without coughing up any assets to do it at a time when they’ve got the freedom to really “go for it” cap wise. The 37-year-old is no longer a 40-goal threat, but he’s an effortless skater with an elite shot and he’s surpassed the 25-goal plateau 12 times in his 19-year career, including a 27-goal season most recently in 2016-17. He also hasn’t missed a game in over eight years.

The risk with this deal is in the third year of term that the Leafs offered to lure Marleau out of San Jose, which will overlap the new contracts of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and potentially Jake Gardiner. How productive will Marleau be when he’s making $6.25 million at age 41? It’s a significant risk, to be sure. It’s a 35+ contract that provides no relief in the case of a buyout or retirement.

The Leafs have reduced some of the risk by loading the contract with signing bonuses; a 35+ contract is buyout proof anyway, so it means Marleau’s cap hit could be moved a little easier later in a trade once the bulk of the annual salary is paid out on July 1. However, Marleau has a No Movement Clause through all three years; meaning, if he wants to see out the deal in Toronto, it’s his call.

Patrick Marleau - Contract Details

SEASONCLAUSECAP HITAAVS. BONUSESP. BONUSESNHL SALARY
2017-18NMC6,250,0006,250,0007,000,00008,500,000
2018-19NMC6,250,0006,250,0004,500,00006,000,000
2019-20NMC6,250,0006,250,0003,00,000004,250,000

The Saskatchewan native fits the high-pace identity of the team and he’s got a huge fan in Mike Babcock. The Leafs head coach has called Marleau an elite two-way player in the recent past and he’s the type of veteran Babcock will trust on the ice in any situation. He’s played center as well as wing, and is a good faceoff taker.

At $6.25 million, the Leafs can afford this luxury with their cap situation being so amenable for the next two years, and Marleau could also help offset the potential loss of left winger James van Riemsdyk as he enters a contract year. All eyes will now turn to whether or not JVR will survive the offseason in Toronto; grabbing Marleau for nothing but cash frees the Leafs up to move JVR for help on defence without losing much in the way of offensive punch. And unlike JVR, Marleau is someone who Babcock will be comfortable deploying up and down his top-nine as opposed to primarily sheltered scoring situations.

Especially if the Leafs choose to hang on for JVR for the time being (a definite possibility), it’s an embarrassment of riches up front, rivalled only by the Pittsburgh Penguins among the 31 teams in the league. The Leafs were the fifth-highest scoring team in the NHL last season with one of the fastest and most skilled groups of forwards in the league, and they just got that much faster and more lethal up front. They’ve also added a trio of 35+ veterans who are still contributing at a pretty high level for their respective roles in Marleau, centerman Dominic Moore and defenceman Ron Hainsey, all of whom can come in and insulate the Leafs’ excellent core of young talent.

Babcock’s promise that Toronto would become a desirable destination for players has come to fruition just two years after his hire. Moore, Hainsey and Marleau are coming to Toronto to chase a Cup. The Leafs, indeed, are going for it.

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