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Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month, you’d know that the Leafs shocked the hockey world by signing Joe Thornton to a one-year contract. He is now the second long-time Shark to don the Blue and White, with Patrick Marleau being the first back in 2017.

It’s interesting that the Leafs ended up with both on their roster at some point given the rumours three years prior that they were interested in signing them together at the start of the free-agent frenzy. While that ended up not happening, the idea of the top two picks of the 1997 NHL Draft playing together in Toronto remains an intriguing probability so long as both remain in the league.

Now that the Leafs have signed Thornton, should they bring back Marleau at some point next season?

The case for

The one thing the Leafs seem to value in players is familiarity with the organization (see the return of Michael Hutchinson). Members of the team, with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner being the most vocal, appear to have good things to say about the Swift Current native. So if Toronto decided to bring him back in a trade, they would welcome him back with open arms.

Part of why the Leafs were able to convince Thornton to come home was because he believed they had a legit shot at winning the Stanely Cup which has alluded him throughout his career. Want to know who else has been in the league for a while and has yet to hoist hockey’s greatest trophy? Marleau. It would be poetic justice for the Leafs to snap the drought with both of them on the roster. Think of how awesome of a story that would be. I know you’re giddy just thinking about it.

Marleau might be well past his prime and his time in the NHL is certainly nearing its end, but there’s still enough gas left in the tank for at least one more season. Last year saw him post 22 points split between the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Leafs consider bringing him back, it won’t cost an arm and a leg given that the Penguins only gave up a conditional third-round pick to acquire Marleau’s services back in February. Perhaps they would only need to surrender a fourth-rounder or lower to get a deal done.

The case against

There doesn’t appear to be any place in the lineup for Marleau and he likely won’t get much playing time unless there are a plethora of injuries. Now that they have added the likes of Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, and Joey Anderson, the Leafs no longer have a need for scoring help on their roster. While it would be cool to see Marleau and Thornton on the same team getting one last crack at the Cup, how will they be able to make that work while accounting for players such as Nicholas Robertson, Pierre Engvall, and Yegor Korshkov vying for minutes?

I also doubt the Leafs would give up a fourth-round pick (or a prospect for that matter) just so they could bring back Marleau for the sake of it. The prospect pool has been weak for the last few years and it is in Toronto’s best interest to only surrender draft picks if they are getting back a player who will help the team and fill a need.

How certain are we that Marleau will remain a useful player in 2021? Twenty of his points were scored on a Sharks team that was the fourth-lowest scoring team in the NHL last campaign. After arriving in Pittsburgh, he only added two more points and went scoreless in their play-in series against the Montreal Canadiens. Daily Faceoff projects him starting next season on the third line alongside Ryan Donato and Marcus Sorensen while getting second power-play minutes. It’s hard to envision him making a major difference on the scoresheet in San Jose, nevermind the Leafs.

Finally, would he even want to move his family for the fourth time in a nearly two-year span? I’d imagine that the constant travelling will be tough on his wife and children who may value stability by remaining in the city Marleau has spent the majority of his career in. It’s something to keep in mind when considering if the Sharks would want to move the 41-year-old. There’s no doubt he is more focused on a Cup than attempting to break Gordie Howe’s games-played record, but he will have to go elsewhere if his heart is truly set on achieving the former.

The verdict

After weighing all of the options, I think it would be in Toronto’s best interest to avoid bringing back Patrick Marleau. While it would certainly be an awesome story for them to try and win the Cup with him and Joe Thornton on the roster, it’s hard to envision him getting consistent minutes with so much competition on the forward unit. There’s no guarantee he will even be a useful player in what will likely be the final season of his storied career given that his production the previous campaign sharply went down compared to the year prior.

So no, the Leafs should not consider bringing back Marleau at some point next season. It would be cool to see it occurring but I can’t envision it happening in real life.

All stats unless otherwise noted are from HockeyDB and Hockey-Reference.com.