Veteran forward Patrick Marleau signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.
Marleau, who turns 38 on Sept. 15, played his entire 19-season NHL career with the San Jose Sharks. Now with the Maple Leafs, Marleau should remain in a similar role as a top-six forward. The only difference is he'll likely be playing with young, talented forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
Should coach Mike Babcock place Marleau on the top line with Matthews and Nylander, and on the first power-play unit, there's no reason Marleau can't return to the top 100 overall in fantasy this season, reaching upwards of 30 goals and 60 points.
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Throughout his NHL career, Marleau has been the model of fantasy consistency. He's scored at least 40 points in 17 of 19 seasons, with at least 20 goals in 14 seasons. Marleau is coming off 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) last season with the Sharks, with 16 power-play points and 190 shots on goal. By Marleau's standards, his PPP and SOG production were low. As a result, he finished 119th among skaters in Yahoo's standard based rankings.
Matthews scored 40 goals as a rookie last season and won the Calder Trophy. He played the majority of 2017-18 with rookie forwards Connor Brown and Zach Hyman, and his power-play production left much to be desired (eight goals, 13 assists in 82 games). Playing with Marleau, at even strength and on the man-advantage, should give Matthews a healthy bump in assists; he had 16 at EV last season.
Subsequently, playing for the Maple Leafs and with Matthews should give Marleau a lift in assists as well. Marleau tied his lowest total in a full NHL season; he also had 19 in 74 games as a rookie in 1997-98. This had something to do with the Sharks' regression on offense. San Jose went from fourth in goals per game (2.89) in 2015-16 to 19th last season (2.67). The Sharks also went from third in power-play percentage (22.5) to 25th (16.7). The Maple Leafs ranked in the top five in goals per game (fifth, 3.05) and PP percentage (second, 23.8) last season.
At this point, you're probably thinking to yourself that all of these statistics sound grand, but what about Marleau's age? Well, of course there is risk with any NHL player over 35, but not necessarily with Marleau, who has missed 31 of 1,524 regular-season games, about 2 percent. He has played every game for San Jose, regular season and playoffs, since 2009-10. Clearly his health and durability are not issues, which is likely why the Maple Leafs felt comfortable signing him to a three-year contract.
So heading into your fantasy draft, consider Marleau a sleeper pick. If you're in a 10-team league, chances are you'll be able to get Marleau toward the end of the draft. In a 12-team and above, you may have to get crafty and target him anywhere past the 10th round. If you're into stacking linemates/teammates, selecting Matthews in the first round and getting Marleau later would be a wise strategy.
Normally what wins a fantasy championship are the players you select after the first few rounds. Marleau could be a key component in that respect and should find success with Toronto.