Maple Leafs trade veteran Patrick Marleau to Hurricanes for 2020 pick

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 club shipped veteran forward Patrick Marleau, a conditional first-round pick and a seventh-round selection in 2020 to the Carolina Hurricanes for a sixth-rounder next year.

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 the 2021 NHL draft.

Marleau had to waive his no-movement clause for the deal to go through.

The trade should also help Toronto re-sign forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, who like Marner are set to become RFAs.

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. 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 wrote.

Marleau also singled out a pair of young teammates — Auston Matthews and Marner — in the post.

“You will always have a spot at our dinner table and extra sticks in our hockey room,” he said. “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, 39, scored 16 goals and added 21 assists in 82 games during the 2018-19 regular season and added a pair of assists in seven playoff games. 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 had 43 goals and 41 assists for 84 points in two seasons with Toronto. The Aneroid, Sask., native has appeared in 1,657 career NHL games with San Jose and Toronto, recording 551 goals and 615 assists.

He was originally drafted second overall by the Sharks in 1997.

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.

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