TORONTO -- The excitement surrounding the Toronto Maple Leafs was enough to convince forward Patrick Marleau to leave the San Jose Sharks, the only NHL team he has played for during a 19-season career.
Marleau signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs on Sunday.
Led by rookie forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander, the Maple Leafs reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs after an 82- game season for the first time since 2003-04, and Marleau wanted to be a part of what comes next.
"It was the team, the excitement that's around it, the youth, the coaching staff, the coach, the management, the way they see the game going and the players they have on their roster, it's extremely exciting to be a part of that," Marleau said.
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Marleau, who turns 38 on Sept. 15, became an unrestricted free agent on Saturday. The contract has an average annual value of $6.25 million.
"I think I've worn out a few carpets pacing around the house and trying to make this decision over the last couple days," Marleau said. "But I'm extremely excited and happy to be part of the Maple Leafs organization. It's definitely an honor to be able to call myself a Maple Leaf, obviously being a Canadian-born player. This decision took me quite a while to come to. But I've made it and I'm happy with it, and I can't wait to get started."
Video: F Patrick Marleau signs 3-year deal with Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs jumped at the chance to add a player with Marleau's ability and experience to a young core poised to contend.
"It's not every day that you can acquire a player like Patrick Marleau and what he can bring to the team," Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He fits right in with the type of game that we play. His skating ability is still exceptional, his versatility in being able to play in all situations, a tremendous amount of experience into the lineup. It just adds to the depth of our forwards."
Marleau had 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) for the Sharks last season, and four points (one goal, three assists) in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.
He is the Sharks' all-time leader in points (1,082), goals (508), game-winning goals (98), power-play goals (160), shorthanded goals (17), and games (1,493). He ranks second in assists (574) behind center Joe Thornton (722).
"It was extremely difficult (to leave San Jose); the owners, the organization has been first-class to me over the 19 years I've been here," Marleau said. "For my wife and four boys, it was extremely tough to finally pull the trigger and have them move to a new country, from one coast to the other, but everybody in our house is extremely excited to be a part of the Maple Leafs and where they are going. I'm ecstatic to be a part of that."
Marleau will reunite with coach Mike Babcock, with whom he won a gold medal for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"Having known Mike at the Olympics and following his career, the work he's done speaks for itself," Marleau said. "Knowing what he's doing with the team he has and knowing what I can contribute is extremely exciting for me."
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Matthews and Marner each has two years remaining on his entry-level contract, and Nylander has one. Lamoriello said signing Marleau was a luxury the Maple Leafs can afford now. They also signed 36-year-old center Dominic Moore (one year, $1 million) and 36-year-old defenseman Ron Hainsey (two years, $6 million) on Saturday.
"We won't be able to do this in a year or so, but we have the room and flexibility to do it and not interrupt the process that we have in place, understanding where our young players are and where they will be," Lamoriello said. "You only have one chance to do something like this, and we would not have done it if it was not the right player. The timing is perfect."
Selected by the Sharks with the No. 2 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau is San Jose's Stanley Cup Playoff leader in games (177), points (120), goals (68), game-winning goals (16), power-play goals (23) and overtime goals (four). He helped the Sharks reach their first Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago.
Marleau has scored at least 30 goals seven times and at least 20 goals 14 times. He is 41st in goals and 20th in games played in NHL history.
Lamoriello said Marleau allows the Maple Leafs to improve without having to sacrifice anyone off the roster.
"It's going to enhance the development of our players like they did last year," Lamoriello said. "We didn't know what to expect going into last season, whether Mitch would make the team, how Auston would adjust, where William was, Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, go on and on.
"We also have to be very careful of the next stage, and that's the year after. This is where we want to make sure we don't go off course. I can see how people would look at it differently, but we have not given up any assets, we have added support.