The preseason is in full swing. Training camp is beginning and the boys in teal are back in the Bay. They opened with media day yesterday, and as expected, Marleau was the elephant in the room – or perhaps more accurately, the elephant no longer in the room.
Tackling the issue head-on, General Manager Doug Wilson offered some insight into how Marleau’s decision was made.
Wilson explains, “It’s supply and demand. With where [the Leafs] are at and the position that they were able to, cap-wise, be able to do it, it worked out really well for them and it worked out well for Patty and it opened up opportunities for us. It’s probably the best case scenario for everybody, but make no mistake about it, we wish Patty the best.”
While Wilson wouldn’t discuss the exact details of what was offered to Marleau, when asked if the Sharks were ever going to offer him a three year term, Wilson said, “We offered one of the best contracts a 38-year-old player has ever been offered in the form of dollars and term. It was a unique situation and we certainly respect Patty’s decision, we really do.”
Pretty hard to argue against that logic, but until the season starts, it’s difficult to see this as a win-win situation. The Sharks have to replace a 27-goal-scorer, and after an inactive off-season, that player will have to come from within.
Wilson didn’t rule out a trade later in the season, though. He explicitly mentioned cap space, as well as the acquisitions of Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, and Martin Jones – all of whom became Sharks via trade. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our team,” he said with a smile. “Everybody in this business knows who has cap space and who has young players that people want. I think we’re positioned really well. We talk a lot to other teams and we’ll see.”
Whether it’s to sweeten the trade market or to replace Marleau, the emphasis still seems to be on younger players stepping up.
“Any team that’s successful in this league has contributions from everybody.”
Logan Couture echoed that sentiment. “Guys have got to step up. Whether it’s someone that had a down year last year, that’s a veteran, or it’s someone that’s come up with the Barracuda, that’s gonna step in here into our line-up and produce – we need someone to do that. We’re gonna have to do it from within.”
Replacing Marleau could ultimately be easier than thought, according to Wilson. “We have a really good hockey team. The easiest position to play and integrate in this league is the wing position when you’re strong down the middle. So we have some players that are going to get that extra ice time or play on the first power play unit. We think it’s a natural growth and opportunity.”
The Sharks certainly have the talent at forward. Ryan Carpenter, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc are already in the running for a roster spot – add onto that some of the biggest performers in the San Jose Barracuda’s Calder Cup run, and there’s plenty of competition for a position that’s much easier to fill than center.
Looking to the future, Wilson even showed optimism about the 2017 draft picks. “A lot of those guys are very good players that might even be closer to playing in this league than you think,” Wilson said. “The timing of when they come up, that’s up to them.”
One thing is very clear: this is not a team that’s in transition. The pieces are already there to compete – or to acquire someone who will. Doug Wilson isn’t afraid of either.