Marleau returns to Sharks in pursuit of Gordie Howe's record of games played

San Jose forward Patrick Marleau, who re-signed for one year on Tuesday, can now break Gordie Howe's NHL games played record of 1,767 in the Sharks uniform he has worn for the vast majority of his career.

Franchise leader in goals, points is 44 contests shy of NHL mark of 1,767

Forward Patrick Marleau, who is returning to the Sharks on a one-year contract, will enter next season 44 contests shy of Gordie Howe's NHL games played record. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Patrick Marleau is back with the San Jose Sharks to chase down a record held by Gordie Howe.

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

"If it does happen, that would be something pretty special, for sure," Marleau said on a video call. "Gordie being from Saskatchewan, as well, my home province, it'd be kind of cool to have that connection with him."

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.

"I still love playing," Marleau said. "I still love the competition. I'm still going after my dream of winning the Stanley Cup and I'm still able to get out there and play and have fun and I think that's the thing that keeps me going."

He'll try again to achieve that elusive goal with San Jose, which has reinforced its roster this off-season 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," Sharks general manager Doug 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, the second overall pick in the 1997 draft, is Sharks' franchise leader with 518 goals and 1,102 points and is second only to longtime running mate Joe Thornton in assists.

Thornton — who's unsigned — and Marleau have texted back and forth about playing together one more time. While Thornton has been linked to other teams, Marleau was only going to play next season for the Sharks.

"I didn't really look at too many other places," he said. "I was just trying to come back here, and I'm thankful that it all worked out."

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

"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," 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 demeanour is inspiring and continues to resonate with our group of younger players."

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