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Under Pressure: Patrick Marleau

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This post is part of Maple Leafs Day on PHT…

The youth movement in Toronto took an interesting twist this summer, with the signing of long-time Sharks forward Patrick Marleau. 

The deal for the 37-year-old forward? Three years with an annual average value of $6.25 million and a no-movement clause, per CapFriendly. That makes Marleau the Maple Leafs’ highest paid player heading into next season.

While Marleau is getting older — he celebrates his 38th birthday in September, when training camp rolls around — he was still productive during his latter years in San Jose, scoring 27 goals last season. He also played the full 82-game regular season schedule.

His point production isn’t anywhere close to his peak of 80-plus points on two occasions with the Sharks, but he’s still been able to score at an impressive rate, especially given his age.

Now, the question becomes: Can he do that over these next three years on a new team, as he continues to get older, the younger players around him enter their prime years and, perhaps most pressing of all, the game gets quicker?

On the day Marleau signed, Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock defended the decision, lauding Marleau’s skating ability and veteran experience against the opposition’s best players.

There is a history between coach and player dating back to the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics with the gold-medal winning Canadian team, so it’s clear Babcock and the organization believe Marleau still has something to offer for what has become a young, skilled and exciting team in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto’s rebuild has accelerated in just over a year. Having the opportunity to select Auston Matthews at No. 1 overall helps. With Matthews, and fellow dynamic rookies William Nylander and Mitch Marner up front, the Maple Leafs were able to make the playoffs in the East.

They pushed the Washington Capitals in a difficult first-round series, which means the expectations for this young core group in Toronto are likely to be greater in 2017-18. It wasn’t that long ago Babcock was predicting “pain” at the beginning of his tenure.

The Leafs also signed veteran forward Dominic Moore to a one-year deal and veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey to a two-year deal. The combined cap hit between them is $4 million, but they are moves that add more experienced players for a team that could be entering its window sooner than previously expected.

Marleau has had a great career, with 508 goals scored and 1,082 points in 1,493 career games, all with San Jose so far. But he’s not a rental. This isn’t the Maple Leafs adding an extra piece in early March to solidify an area of their roster for a run at the Stanley Cup three months later. It’s three years, big money, and a no-movement clause for a player pushing 40 while entering perhaps the most high-pressure hockey environment in the world.

He joins the Maple Leafs at a time when the club shows great potential for the next few years, courtesy the young talent throughout their lineup. It also means considerable pressure following a rebuild.

On a deal with less money or term, one could argue Marleau may be able to fly slightly under the radar.

But not at an average of more than $6 million per year. Not in Toronto.

“That’s what everybody wants. I think every team expects that out of themselves,” Marleau recently told Hockey Talk on Sirius XM.

“That is not going to be any different. Having played as long as I have and knowing the ups and downs of the season, you’ve got to learn from those. It’s all a challenge and it’s all an opportunity. I think that with this group of guys I’m extremely excited about making that long playoff run.”

The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson

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Player of the Night: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Nico Hischier collected two goals and an assist in a blistering effort as the Devils beat the Senators in overtime. Erik Karlsson almost ruined things for New Jersey with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched an impressive 43-save shutout as the Lightning edged the Blue Jackets. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan from even bigger nights, yet each player scored two goals and one assist apiece in a slim Stars win vs. the Coyotes.

Even Bergeron’s teammates made some waves.

There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.

Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?

Highlight of the Night: Connor McDavid‘s ridiculous assist

This post goes into greater detail on that and Edmonton’s win, so we’ll just stick this GIF in here because you need to see it either way:

OK, but to avoid an overly redundant buzzer, check Hischier here, David Pastrnak‘s great goal, and Mikhail Sergachev‘s big night. And, as a bonus, Will Butcher must have nodded to Karlsson after sending this ridiculous outlet pass:

Outstanding.

You know what? Enjoy Bishop robbing Derek Stepan as a bonus bonus.

Misc.

Click here for Erik Gudbranson‘s hit and fight. Zack Kassian‘s hit on Ryan Hartman is mentioned there, but just in case you missed it, here it is one more time:

Factoids of the night

Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators continued their hot streak by blanking the Flyers. Rinne enjoys a milestone moment:

Two impressive bits regarding how dominant McDavid and Karlsson have been:

Scores and more

Bruins 6, Canucks 3 (more)

Devils 5, Senators 4 [OT] (more)

Islanders 4, Rangers 3 [SO]

Predators 1, Flyers 0

Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 0 (more)

Oilers 2, Blackhawks 1 [OT] (more)

Blues 4, Avalanche 3

Hurricanes 2, Flames 1

Stars 5, Coyotes 4

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

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The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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McDavid dazzles again, Oilers break slump with OT win vs. Blackhawks

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Update: The Edmonton Oilers ended up needing every bit of Connor McDavid‘s brilliance, as goals weren’t coming easily against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.

(Even though, as you can see with that highlight-reel assist, McDavid often makes it look easy.)

McDavid also managed a secondary assist on Mark Letestu‘s overtime-winner, ending the Edmonton Oilers’ losing streak at four games. The Blackhawks continue to be resourceful in getting standings points, in this case falling 2-1 in OT.

Anton Forsberg made 40 of 42 saves, but it wasn’t enough against a driven group led by number 97.

Here’s the OT goal.

If you haven’t seen the more amazing of McDavid’s two helpers, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won’t regret it.

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Connor McDavid’s speed and skill are glorious, but the thing that makes him extra-sensational is just how unstoppable he seems. Even against some of the NHL’s best.

To start the season, McDavid made very-solid Calgary Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie look downright permeable during the most impressive goal in his opening-night hat trick.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the superstar tore through the Chicago Blackhawks – including certain future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith – and then sent absolutely obscene pass to Patrick Maroon for an easy goal.

You know how people used to say that a fire hydrant could score 50 goals with Mario Lemieux? We might need to bump that down to 30 for modern hockey, but either way, Maroon might laugh uncomfortably at such jokes.

If you prefer your jaw-droppers in GIF form, drop away:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Bergeron bombastic in return, but Bruins lose Krejci to injury

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The roller coaster isn’t slowing down for the Boston Bruins.

With Tuukka Rask‘s concussion looming over the proceedings, the Bruins gave fans some reason to celebrate; Patrice Bergeron scored a goal and three assists in an impressive 6-3 output by the B’s top guns against the overmatched Vancouver Canucks.

Even Anders Bjork enjoyed some measure of redemption after bowling over Rask in practice, as the young player scored two goals and an assist despite being limited to 12:29 TOI.

Other big guns like Brad Marchand did their increasingly reliable damage, with David Pastrnak probably providing the most exhilarating goal of the contest:

Yeah, that might get some attention from Canucks coach Travis Green in film sessions, assuming he doesn’t just burn the tape.

Bergeron broke down his night to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game:

The Bruins really made Erik Gudbranson and the Canucks pay for boarding Frank Vatrano, as they scored three power-play goals on the major penalty. Vatrano’s another health situation to watch, although it’s heartening that he returned during the game.

MORE: Gudbranson faces hearing for hit

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So … solid stuff overall, as the Bruins provided ample evidence that they might have the weapons to scrap through all this bad luck.

Then again, if opponents can slow the top-end guys, you wonder what kind of supporting cast the Bruins will have left through this run of attrition. David Krejci is the latest name to land on Boston’s troubling list of walking wounded.

Here’s hoping that it isn’t a big issue for a veteran center who’s dealt with nagging injuries in recent years.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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