Mike Babcock met with the media on the draft floor on Saturday to discuss the Patrick Marleau trade, whether he’s concerned about contract negotiations with Mitch Marner, and the team’s plan at left wing.
How will you look back on Patrick Marleau’s legacy in the two seasons you had him in this club?
Babcock: Obviously, Patty is a good man. We acquired him for a reason — to help us. I believe he was a big part in recruiting John Tavares. There are so many things to it. Obviously, this is a situation where he is going to move somewhere else and pursue his career. Ideally, it would be a good situation for him and his family, wherever he gets to go. We just thank him.
Where do you see the team shaping up on that left flank now with losing Marleau and Hyman maybe not being ready?
Babcock: Mikheyev, obviously, is going to be a big part of our hockey club here. That will be part. The bottom line is that’s why we have training camp. We’ve got lots of time, right? When I look around and see where it is at right now, this freed up a bunch of cap space which we needed. Now we go from here.
How did he take it that you guys really did need him to leave to free up that cap space?
Babcock: You’d have to talk to Duby about that. Obviously, he’s not a kid. He is a man. There have been lots of conversations between he and Kyle to get to where he wanted to go. Patty has been a big part of it.
You were confident all along that William Nylander’s contract would get done eventually and it did. Do you have the same mindset with Mitch and how things are going?
Babcock: It is a new landscape in the NHL, obviously. I’ve never seen the kind of things that take place now. But Mitch likes being a Leaf. He is from Toronto.
Do you see opportunities for other guys in the organization on the blue line given Dermott’s situation and what may happen with free agency with Jake Gardiner?
Babcock: Obviously, we’ve got some work to do there, right?
What do you think Marleau’s legacy will be looking back?
Babcock: I don’t know… is he going to play longer than Gordie Howe? I mean, I think it is way too early to discuss that. Patty is ultra competitive. Great fitness guy. Good human being. He wants to play. His family supports him playing. Why wouldn’t he keep playing as long as he can and see where it goes? I mean, he is just a real good player and he’s been healthy and he’s been able to play a long time. He will continue to play.
You lose the veteran presence of a Marleau, but how do you think your young guys have benefitted from Tavares?
Babcock: Just think about it… Real good pro. We have John Tavares — real good pro. Morgan Rielly has turned himself into a real good pro. Freddy Andersen has become a totally committed pro. We have a good leadership core in our group. We need these young guys like Mitchy and Matty and Willy — and I mean, Hyman is a leader that way anyway — to continue to evolve and become leaders themselves and really good pros who set an example. Leadership isn’t about what you say. It’s about doing it right every day and finding a new way to reinvent yourself every summer as a pro to continue to get better. That is what Tavares does for us.