San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson closed the door on former captain Patrick Marleau returning to the team on Wednesday.
Wilson told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic that Marleau will "always be a Shark," but the team plans on giving bigger opportunities to their young forwards.
“With (Joe Pavelski) leaving, we’re in a similar situation to where we were a couple of years ago when Patrick left,” Wilson wrote via text message. “With a veteran player moving on, it opened up opportunity for some of our younger players -Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc at that time - to evolve and earn that ice time. Those players grew into core pieces of our lineup.
“We feel that we have one of the strongest groups of young players that we have ever had, knocking on the door, and we have promised them that same opportunity to show they deserve a spot.
“This takes nothing away from what Patrick accomplished here as a player and as a man. He will always be a San Jose Shark, no matter where he goes.
“But the team is at a different place right now and is continuing to evolve. We owe it to the players who have put the time in preparing for their opportunity to show what they can do.”
Marleau remains an unrestricted free agent after he was bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes in June after being traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has been linked to the Sharks this off-season after noting his desire to be closer to his previous home in San Jose. He was pictured skating at the Sharks training facility with former teammate Joe Thornton earlier this summer.
A veteran of 21 seasons, Marleau scored 16 goals and added 21 assists in 82 games with the Leafs during the 2018-19 regular season and added a pair of assists in seven playoff games. The 39-year-old, who served as captain of the Sharks from 2003-09, said in June he believes he could play even beyond the 2019-20 season.
Marleau has 551 goals and 1,166 points in 1,657 career games with the Sharks and Maple Leafs. He will turn 40 on Sept. 15.