9 NHL stars with odd late-career stints as Leafs

Feb 23 2022, 5:19 pm

The Toronto Maple Leafs have employed no shortage of NHL stars over their history.

Currently stacked with names like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares, Toronto’s been known for having plenty of firepower and big names.

But while linking the Leafs with a star player is a surefire way to draw in some clicks, occasionally, the big names do wind up in Toronto.

With the trade deadline just under a month away, let’s take a look back and recall nine of the weirdest stars to suit up for the latter stages of their careers with the Leafs:

1. Joe Thornton

Primary NHL team: Sharks

Year: 2021

Stats: 44 GP, 5 G, 15 A, 20 PTS

Joe Thornton coming to the Leafs was the kind of move fans could only actualize in video games, but last season it happened. After 15 seasons with the Sharks (and eight prior with Boston), a 41-year-old Thornton chose to give Toronto a try, immediately becoming one of the Leafs’ biggest stars.

While it’s a shame that no fans ever got to see Thornton as a Leaf due to the pandemic, it was still pretty incredible to see the 2006 Hart Trophy winner wear the blue and white before he signed with Florida this offseason.

2. Patrick Marleau

Primary NHL team: Sharks

Year: 2017-19

Stats: 164 GP, 43 G, 41 A, 84 PTS

Take your pick of Thornton or Patrick Marleau; both are just-as-weird ex-Sharks stars to play for the Leafs.

For a player who spent 20 seasons in San Jose, his 27 goals in his first year in Toronto were a welcome addition to the team. But Marleau’s decline as a Leaf happened as he approached 40, with his production and ice time slowing down in his second season in Toronto.

He never quite lived up to his three-year, $19 million contract, as Marleau’s time in Toronto ended with a trade to the Carolina Hurricanes that resulted in an eventual buyout.

3. Nick Foligno

Primary NHL team: Blue Jackets

Year: 2021

Stats: 7 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS

In another world, Nick Foligno on the Leafs could’ve been something special. The Leafs traded a first-round draft pick to Columbus for their captain Foligno, a player who’d grown up a Toronto fan as his father Mike played for the team.

In his 14th NHL season after nine in Columbus and five with Ottawa, Foligno’s acquistion was supposed to help put Toronto over the playoff hump and help the team win its first series since 2004.

In reality, Foligno got hurt twice in his short tenure in Toronto, missed three playoff games and never scored a goal for the team. Foligno then signed a two-year deal with Boston this past offseason, though his performance there has been trying as well, putting up just one goal and six assists in his first 33 games.

4. Tomas Plekanec

Primary NHL team: Canadiens

Year: 2018

Stats: 17 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS

In terms of sacrilegious uniform swaps, Tomas Plekanec’s tenure in Toronto has to rank right up there. Coming to Toronto as part of their 2018 playoff run, Plekanec barely got his feet wet with the Leafs after 14 seasons with arch-rival Montreal.

He scored a pair of playoff goals (and added a pair of asssists), though the Leafs ultimately fell to Boston in seven games in the first round. Ending his Leafs tenure with 998 career NHL games played, Plekanec returned to Montreal the following season for just three more games to hit the 1000 games milestone. Since then, he’s played the last three seasons in his native Czechia.

5. Ron Francis

Primary NHL team: Whalers, Penguins, Hurricanes

Year: 2003

Stats: 12 GP, 3 G,  7 A, 10 PTS

If you ever wanted the answer to the trivia question of “highest place on the NHL career scoring leaders of anyone to suit up for the Leafs”, fifth-ranking Ron Francis is your guy.

Francis is the blueprint for a successful trade deadline add, as he stepped in seamlessly to the Leafs’ lineup to close out his NHL career.

A two-time Stanley Cup winning player with the Penguins and a 2007 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Francis’ 1249 assists sit second just to Wayne Gretzky on the all-time career list.

6. Phil Housley

Primary NHL team: Sabres

Year: 2003

Stats: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS

In terms of stars who have suited up with the Leafs, Housley’s tenure was about as short as you could get.

A 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee who spent 21 seasons in the NHL and played nearly 1500 games, Toronto was just a blip on Housley’s radar after being acquired in March of 2003.

Dealing with an injury at the time of his acquisition, Housley played in the final regular season game before suiting up for three more playoff games.

Safe to say there probably aren’t too many Housley jerseys lying around, as he retired following the 2002-2003 season.

7. Olli Jokinen

Primary NHL team: Panthers

Year: 2015

Stats: 6 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PT

While best known for his time as a Florida Panther, Olli Jokinen suited up for nearly one-third of the league, calling 10 NHL teams home over the course of his career. Out of all of them, he played the fewest games for the Leafs, asking for a trade request almost immediately after arriving in Toronto in the spring of 2015.

Jokinen got his wish, being traded to the St. Louis Blues after just six games in Toronto. But he played just eight games for the Blues, didn’t suit up in any playoff games in their first-round loss to Minnesota, and took two years off from the NHL before eventually announcing his retirement as a Panther in 2017.

8. Brad May

Primary NHL teams: Sabres, Canucks

Year: 2009

Stats: 38 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS

The 2008-09 Leafs weren’t all that good, finishing last in a five-team Atlantic Division. For whatever reason, while in the midst of a slog in January, they traded away a conditional draft pick to the Anaheim Ducks for May, a player who had scored just 14 goals over his past five seasons.

May had his fair share of NHL success over the years, winning a Stanley Cup with the Ducks and putting up a pair of 40 point seasons in the 1990s with the Sabres. But by the time May came to the Leafs, he was a shell of his former self, and will likely be best remembered for his five fights in Toronto more than anything else.

9. Eric Brewer

Primary NHL teams: Blues, Lightning, Oilers

Year: 2015

Stats: 18 GP,  2 G, 3 A, 5 PTS

The 2015 Leafs were a lawless organization, employing names like Eric Brewer and Jokinen, while putting up just 68 points in 82 games to finish 27th in the 30-team NHL. Brewer came over to the Leafs from the Ducks along with a fifth-round draft pick for Korbinan Holzer.

A 2002 Olympic gold medallist who played over 1000 games in the NHL, Brewer’s career came to a sputtering halt while logging minutes primarily alongside Dion Phaneuf in his last go in the pros.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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