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Trade Coverage

Marleau's chase for Stanley Cup championship continues with Penguins

Forward traded by Sharks, has played most NHL games without title

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Patrick Marleau's pursuit of a Stanley Cup championship will continue with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Marleau, a 40-year-old forward, was traded to the Penguins by the San Jose Sharks on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He has played 1,715 NHL games, the most in League history without winning the Cup.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Marleau's chase made acquiring him more enticing.

"His desire to get that ultimate prize is going to be big for him," Rutherford said. "His time is running out."


[RELATED: 2019-20 NHL Trade Tracker]


Marleau was the first of three forwards acquired by the Penguins on Monday, two weeks after they made a trade with the Minnesota Wild for forward Jason Zucker on Feb. 10. The Penguins also received forwards Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres for forward Dominik Kahun.

Zucker is playing left wing on Pittsburgh's first line with Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon. He has five points (three goals, two assists) in seven games since the trade. Zucker has essentially replaced forward Jake Guentzel, who is out the rest of the regular season after having shoulder surgery Dec. 31.

The trades Monday did not come with the same intention. Marleau, Sheary and Rodrigues are expected to aid a group that had become overly reliant on its top three lines, leading to increased minutes for Crosby and second-line center Evgeni Malkin.

"Trying to get their minutes down so that we could come, and come hard, shift after shift with four lines, that's what we should be able to do now that we made those changes," Rutherford said.

The Penguins (37-18-6) have lost three straight games and are two points behind the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. They lost 5-3 at Washington on Sunday.

Marleau, Sheary and Rodrigues could debut when Pittsburgh plays the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN). It is unknown on which line each would play.

"They can move up and down the lineup, and they can move to their opposite wing or to center," Rutherford said. "So having that kind of flexibility for [coach Mike Sullivan] makes it easier for him."

Video: Penguins acquire Patrick Marleau from Sharks

That's what Rutherford said drew the Penguins to Marleau, who reminded him of since-retired Matt Cullen, the fourth-line center for Pittsburgh's championship runs in 2016 and 2017 who also did also spend some time at wing on the top two lines.

"We have a close-knit team now. Bringing someone in that's going to fit in makes sense for us," Rutherford said. "He brings leadership, but he's still a good player. We've watched him a lot. The advantage he's got is kind of like Matt Cullen; he can still really skate. As you get older, that's important for you.

"Getting guys that can move up and down the lineup always helps. Marleau and Sheary can do that. Even Rodrigues, he was in and out of the lineup in Buffalo. I don't know exactly what happened there. Even there were times he played with [Jack] Eichel, so those guys can definitely move around."

Marleau had 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 58 games for the Sharks this season, his 22nd in the NHL.

"You always treat iconic players with the class they deserve," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said of Marleau. "I left it up to him, what he wanted to do and what he wanted to explore. … He made a decision I fully supported."

Like Marleau, Rutherford said he knew what the Penguins were getting in Sheary. He had 93 points in 184 games over three seasons for Pittsburgh before being traded to Buffalo on June 27, 2018. That trade was used to create enough room under the NHL salary cap for defenseman Jack Johnson, who signed a five-year, $16.25 million contract on July 1, 2018.

"[Sheary] was pretty pumped when I talked to him," Rutherford said. "The coaches felt very strong when his name came up that it would be seamless for him coming back here. He didn't leave here because we didn't like him."

Losing the past three games did not lead to bringing back Sheary and trading for Rodrigues, who had nine points (five goals, four assists) in 38 games for the Sabres this season. Rutherford said the trade for Marleau was not made with any sense of desperation.

"We scratched and clawed, and I give the coaches and players a lot of credit, to catch Washington to get into first place," Rutherford said. "Then we got there and we had a couple of bad games. … I don't know if it's because we were happy to get to where we got to, or we already got our minds on the Washington game on Sunday.

"But we had two off games [against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sabres], and then we got to Washington and we played a good game. It was a game that could've gone either way. We're obviously not going to win every game, but if we play like that, we're going to be OK."

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