VANCOUVER — The Toronto Maple Leafs took a big step towards getting some salary cap relief about an hour before the NHL draft resumed Saturday.
The move helps clear cap space for Toronto by removing Marleau’s US$6.25-million salary and increases the likelihood star winger Mitch Marner, who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, will remain with the club.
If Toronto’s first-round selection in 2020 is a top-10 pick, the Hurricanes will instead receive a first-round selection in 2021.
Marleau, who turns 40 in September, had to waive his no-movement clause for the deal to go through.
The trade should also help Toronto’s efforts to re-sign forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, who like Marner are set to become RFAs.
The Leafs now have roughly $61.5 million committed to 16 roster players next season. The salary cap ceiling, which should be announced this weekend following consultations between the NHL and the league’s players’ association, is expected to fall between $81 million and $83 million in 2019-20.
Marleau issued a statement via his wife Christina’s Twitter account moments after the trade was announced, thanking the Leafs and their fans.
"It was an honour to play with the iconic Maple Leaf on my jersey, and to be a part of Leaf nation," Marleau wrote. "There are so many incredible experiences we had while in Toronto, things my boys will remember and cherish for their entire lives.
"But the very best I will take away from my time there are the people that we all met."
Marleau also singled out a pair of young teammates — Marner and Auston Matthews — in the post.
"You will always have a spot at our dinner table and extra sticks in our hockey room," he added. "I’ll miss seeing you at the rink everyday. Never forget how good you guys are. Thank you again, Leafs nation. I think you all are in pretty good hands."
Marleau scored 16 goals — the fewest since his rookie campaign in 1997-98 — and 37 points in 82 games during the 2018-19 regular season, and added a pair of assists in seven playoff outings. He signed a three-year, $18.75-million contract with the Leafs in the summer of 2017 after 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks.
Marleau, who had 84 points in two seasons with Toronto, appeared to lose a step in his 21st professional campaign.
The Aneroid, Sask., native has appeared in 1,657 career NHL games with San Jose and Toronto, recording 551 goals and 615 assists.
Marleau was originally drafted second overall by the Sharks in 1997.
The 22-year-old Marner led the Leafs with career-bests in points (94) and assists (68) in the regular season, and also set a new personal high-water mark in goals (26).
General manager Kyle Dubas said after Toronto was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins for the second straight spring back in April that getting Marner signed was "priority one," but the clock continues to tick towards July 1.
The Leafs were the only Canadian team not to make a selection in Friday’s first round at Rogers Arena.
Toronto traded the 19th pick, minor-league forward Carl Grundstrom and the rights to defence prospect Sean Durzi to the Los Angeles Kings for veteran blue-liner Jake Muzzin back in January.
The draft continued with rounds two through seven on Saturday.