Marleau returns to Sharks in pursuit of games played record

Patrick Marleau is back with the San Jose Sharks.

Marleau rejoined San Jose on Tuesday, signing a one-year deal worth the league minimum of $700,000. The 41-year-old can now break Gordie Howe’s NHL games played record in the Sharks uniform he has worn for the vast majority of his career.

“Patrick is one of the most iconic players in San Jose Sharks history, as well as being one of the most respected veterans in the National Hockey League,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “The leadership he brings on and off the ice has been well documented over his fantastic NHL career, and his competitive fire to win is still burning strong. Patrick’s lead-by-example demeanor is inspiring and continues to resonate with our group of younger players.”

Marleau is fifth in games played and sits 44 shy of Howe’s mark going into next season, which the league is hoping to start Jan. 1. He played his first 19 seasons with the Sharks before leaving for two years in Toronto, returned last season and was traded to Pittsburgh at the deadline for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

He’ll try again to achieve that elusive goal with San Jose, which has reinforced its roster this offseason after missing the playoffs and finishing 29th out of 31 teams. The Sharks on Tuesday also brought back homegrown forward Matt Nieto on a $700,000, one-year deal.

Nieto, a teammate of Marleau’s when the Sharks went to the Cup Final in 2016, spent the past three-plus seasons with Colorado.

“His quickness and defensive responsibility made him one of the top penalty killers on Colorado,” Wilson said. “And we feel that those assets, along with his decision-making and playmaking, will bring a lot of elements to our team.”

Marleau brings the more than two decades of pro experience he has accumulated since the Sharks picked him second in the 1997 draft. He’s the Sharks’ franchise leader with 518 goals and 1,102 points and is second only to longtime running mate Joe Thornton in assists.

In 1,723 regular-season games with San Jose, Toronto and Pittsburgh, Marleau has 562 goals and 626 assists for 1,188 points.

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