Mitch Marner

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Mike Babcock doesn’t seem too worried about Marleau’s age

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The Toronto Maple Leafs committed three years to free agent Patrick Marleau on Sunday, signing the now former San Jose Sharks forward.

It’s a pricey deal — worth a total of $18.75 million, most of that geared towards signing bonuses, according to CapFriendly.

It also involves a no-movement clause.

That’s quite a bit for a player about to celebrate his 38th birthday in September. Marleau won’t reach his lofty numbers achieved five, six, seven or eight years ago. Knocking on the door of a 40-goal campaign was the norm back then for Marleau.

But he has remained productive into his late 30s, scoring 27 goals and 46 points this past season.

Toronto’s bench boss Mike Babcock coached Marleau with Team Canada in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. With such emphasis on youth and speed in today’s NHL, signing a soon-to-be 38-year-old forward — especially to a three-year deal — raises eyebrows.

However, Babcock doesn’t seem overly concerned about that deal or Marleau’s age.

Babcock has been put in charge of overseeing the on-ice component of the Maple Leafs rebuild, which, with an impressive group of young and talented players, has taken quite a step forward in the last year. The Maple Leafs have since added veteran players like defenseman Ron Hainsey and center Dominic Moore to their lineup. Marleau is the most noteworthy catch for Toronto over the last day-and-a-half.

From the Canadian Press:

The Leafs are trying to snatch the last bit of good from his Hall of Fame-worthy career while injecting veteran stability and versatility into an lineup that’s mostly populated by youth. The club also has a limited window for making such a move with young stars Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner all still on entry-level contracts.

“We won’t be able to do this in a year or so but we have the room and flexibility to do it (now) and not interrupt the process that we have in place, understanding where our young players are and where they will be,” Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement released by the team.

Meanwhile, this marks the end of an era for the Sharks and Marleau.

He played 1,493 regular season games in San Jose, and another 177 in the playoffs. Between regular season and playoffs, Marleau scored 576 goals and 1,202 points with the Sharks.

“Patrick has been a pillar of this franchise since he was drafted as a 17-year-old in 1997, and has become one of the elite players in our team’s history,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement.

“He owns nearly every offensive record in Sharks history, scored some big goals for our team and helped shape San Jose into a true hockey city. While we were hoping he would choose to return to San Jose, we wish him the absolute best and want to thank Patrick, his wife Christina, and their children Landon, Brody, Jagger and Caleb for their time in San Jose, a place he has called home for nearly two decades.”

Report: Rangers, Jackets, Leafs are on Kovalchuk’s ‘wish list’

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As of noon ET, Ilya Kovalchuk can officially sign a contract with the New Jersey Devils. What happens after that remains to be seen.

Kovalchuk might be signing with the Devils (because he has to), but he’s expected to wind up elsewhere via a sign-and-trade.

It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up because there have also been rumblings about him going back to the KHL next season.

But according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, three of the teams he’d consider going to are the Rangers, Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs.

It’s easy to see why the Leafs wouldn’t be interested. They have a lot of young firepower up front with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander all on entry-level deals. Those guys will have to get paid at some point, which means committing big money to Kovalchuk probably isn’t wise.

The Russian sniper had an incredible year with SKA Saint Petersburg in the KHL, as he scored 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games.

Related:

Kovalchuk talking extension with KHL club

Kovalchuk still planning NHL return, per Shero

Auston Matthews claims Calder Memorial Trophy

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Auston Matthews reached the 40-goal plateau in his rookie season, capturing the Calder Trophy on Wednesday after helping accelerate the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rebuilding process.

Selected first overall last year, Matthews made his mark on the NHL right away, scoring four goals in his very first game.

Talk about a debut.

He continued that elite offensive flare all the way through the regular season, finishing with 69 points and helping the Maple Leafs into the postseason.

Matthews beats out Patrik Laine, who had an impressive 36 goals and 64 points in Winnipeg, and Columbus rookie defenseman Zach Werenski.

The Calder Trophy goes to the league’s top rookie.

This was a truly impressive rookie class.

Matthews, who set a new American rookie goal record, has become the face of a franchise loaded with young talent, including Mitch Marner and William Nylander. With that injection of skilled youth into their lineup, the Maple Leafs gave the Washington Capitals all they could handle in the opening round, before eventually bowing out to Alex Ovechkin and the Caps.

His play certainly grabbed the attention of the league’s best players, including Sidney Crosby.

“I think the biggest thing that stands out is how he complete he is,” said Crosby earlier in the season. “That’s what I noticed from just watching him play. Just that maturity.

“His game is just so well-rounded. He’s a guy who can score goals but he’s a guy who can play away from the puck. He’s strong on the puck. He scores goals different ways, and that is probably a big reason why he is so consistent. He’s got a great shot, but he can also score from in close and goes to the net hard too.”

The winner of the award is selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Here is how the voting turned out:

Points: (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)

1. Auston Matthews, TOR 1661 (164-3-0-0-0)
2. Patrik Laine, WPG 1106 (3-134-24-6-0)
3. Zach Werenski, CBJ 711 (0-21-93-28-15)
4. Matt Murray, PIT 346 (0-6-25-52-23)
5. Mitchell Marner, TOR 273 (0-3-14-42-56)
6. William Nylander, TOR 143 (0-0-7-24-36)
7. Matthew Tkachuk, CGY 72 (0-0-4-11-19)
8. Sebastian Aho, CAR 26 (0-0-0-4-14)
9. Ivan Provorov, PHI 2 (0-0-0-0-2)
10. Brayden Point, TBL 1 (0-0-0-0-1)
Brady Skjei, NYR 1 (0-0-0-0-1)

After earning Memorial Cup MVP, Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome faces another important offseason

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Dylan Strome began this season in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes. He ended it in junior, earning most valuable player honors in the 2017 Memorial Cup.

Strome and his Erie Otters didn’t capture the championship, as their season ultimately ended with a loss in Sunday’s finale. The Memorial Cup title went to the Windsor Spitfires thanks to a dominant performance from Maple Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco.

Still, Strome posted 11 points in five games at the Memorial Cup, including a record-breaking seven points in a single game. That was on top of a campaign in which he had 109 points in 57 games combined between regular season and playoffs.

“There are a lot of players who get sent back and have trouble overcoming the disappointment,” Erie’s head coach Kris Knoblauch told NHL.com. “But Dylan has never been like that. That’s a major reason we are here.”

Taken third overall by the Coyotes in the 2015 NHL Draft, Strome began this season with the big club, but after appearing in only seven games with one assist, Arizona made the decision to send its prized prospect back to juniors. (Remember, Strome wasn’t eligible at the time to play in the AHL.)

That 2015 draft was loaded with top-end, first-round talent. It started with Connor McDavid, then Jack Eichel as the top two picks. Strome was third, followed by Mitch Marner at fourth.

The Strome vs. Marner debate and comparisons started well before the draft took place. Marner has played 77 games in the NHL for the Maple Leafs, with an impressive 61 points. Could’ve been rookie of the year had it not been for playing in the same freshman class as Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.

Of the top 11 picks in that draft, Strome has played the fewest NHL games so far. But he also plays center, and physical strength, especially at that position, seemed to be a focal point of his development when the Coyotes sent him down earlier in the year. His skating, too, is something Central Scouting had previously identified as needing improvement, even before the draft.

“I think Dylan, physically, it’s going to take him some time,” said Coyotes general manager John Chayka earlier in the season. “That’s where we got to — that he needs to get stronger.”

Chayka later added that on-ice performance is what the Coyotes would be keeping track of while Strome was back in Erie. Strome was certainly productive — again. He had a goal and an assist in the Memorial Cup final, before receiving his MVP nod.

Last year, Strome made the Coyotes roster out of training camp, along with other youngsters Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, and Christian Dvorak.

Young Mitch Marner meme isn’t lost on Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs

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A couple of days ago, Mitch Marner was spotted at Pearson Airport in Toronto with a backwards baseball cap after flying back from a very impressive and productive run at the World Hockey Championship.

Hockey Twitter exploded with well-meaning laughter as the dazzlingly talented 20-year-old looked even younger than 20.

Even a few days later, it really is a sight to behold, whether you need a respite from politics or biting your nails about Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final:

As much as many of us deride this age of social media, it’s been a goldmine for self deprecating comedy from hockey players; as it turns out, Roberto Luongo doesn’t have that market completely cornered, either.

Not long ago, Auston Matthews jumped in on the Marner meme, and it was glorious:

To his credit, Marner himself joined in:

Is anyone else eager to see what these young stars come up with both on and off the ice during the next, oh, couple decades?