Patrick Marleau will make his season debut when the San Jose Sharks play the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSCH, NBCSCA, NHL.TV).
The forward, who signed a one-year contract with the Sharks, will enter his 22nd NHL season. Marleau played his first 19 NHL seasons with San Jose before signing a three-year, $18.75 million contract (average annual value $6.25 million) with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent July 2, 2017.
“I’m very happy to be back,” Marleau said Wednesday in Chicago after he practiced with the Sharks for the first time. “I’ve been training and skating around the Bay Area. It’s been an interesting time to say the least.”
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The 40-year-old has not played since the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round, when he had two assists for the Maple Leafs in a seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins.
“It will be good to get out there and use the adrenaline to my advantage,” he said. “To get the first skate today was good for me and to get the morning skate tomorrow.”
Marleau, who skated on the top line with Logan Couture and Timo Meier in practice, has the second-longest active games-played streak in the NHL at 788, behind Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle, who played in his 800th straight game Tuesday. Marleau’s streak began April 9, 2009.
“He still skates really well,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “He’s a big man, he knows how to play. I have no doubt he can help us on the ice and off the ice. He’s a class act. He’s a quality guy. He’s been a leader here, he’s been a captain in the League. I think he’s welcome on all fronts.”
Marleau’s return should boost the Sharks (0-4-0), who tied the worst start in their history; they also began the 1993-94 season with four straight losses.
“Today was a good day to see Patty and he put some smiles on a lot of faces around here,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said. “Obviously losing four in a row, it’s not fun here coming to the rink, and you’re disappointed in the way you played. Hopefully he adds some energy to our team tomorrow and we play well.”
On June 27, Marleau had the final season of his Maple Leafs contract bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, making him an unrestricted free agent. Carolina acquired Marleau in a trade from Toronto on June 22 with a conditional first-round NHL Draft pick and a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft for a sixth-round pick in 2020.
Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock texted Marleau on Tuesday and said he was happy that he’ll remain in the NHL.
“I’m glad it’s all worked out for him,” Babcock said. “It probably took a little longer than he wanted, but he said last night his wife and kids were real happy. As we all know anybody who has a wife and kids, that’s a real important thing. Patty wants to keep playing past this year as well, so we wish him luck.”
Selected by San Jose with the No. 2 pick in the 1997 NHL Draft, Marleau has 1,166 points (551 goals, 615 assists) in 1,657 NHL games and 127 points (72 goals, 55 assists) in 191 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
He is the Sharks leader in games played (1,493), goals (508) and points (1,082).
“There’s a lot of work to do, a lot to prove again to myself and to everybody who’s supported me,” Marleau said. “Now is the time to get the work boots on, go out on the ice and help the team.”
NHL.com staff writer Tracey Myers and independent correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed