Toronto Maple Leafs: What is the endgame for Mitch Marner?

Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stretches during the warm-up prior to action against the New York Rangers in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stretches during the warm-up prior to action against the New York Rangers in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

With no formal updates on Mitch Marner’s contract negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs, that hasn’t stopped the speculation around offer sheets.

It appears Mitch Marner‘s camp is at it again and if the latest speculation is true, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kyle Dubas could be in for a tough negotiation.

The last official word we heard from the team about the contract talks was when Brendan Shanahan said that he spoke with Marner’s agent Darren Ferris back on May 14. 

While there isn’t any reason to panic right now, Leafs Nation has a reason to be skeptical considering all the talk about the team’s salary cap and the difficulty in getting William Nylander signed. Unlike Nylander and Auston Matthews, there have been far more leaks involving Marner’s camp based on what has been reported the past few months.

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Everything intensified as soon as Matthews got his new deal and Ferris suggested his client was being lowballed by the team. Then he said his client “will be a Lead for a long time” according to Sportsnet and the comments he made were in reference to the negotiations from the prior summer.

So with that fire extinguished there hasn’t really been a period where things had been trending in the right direction between Marner and the Leafs with one common link in all of this, Darren Dreger.

Most of the speculation about the asking price have been coming from the TSN insider since he has been driving home the idea of Marner asking for $10 million or more. Now, he hasn’t been the only one to say this but his recent interview suggests the Leafs could be looking past July 1 to get a deal done.

"“I believe that the Marner camp is still looking at July 1 or beyond. He’s earned the right to do that and I’d be shocked if Darren Ferris and Mitch Marner aren’t on a plane on June 26, starting the visiting process of the clubs that might be willing to do an offer sheet. Dreger said during Leafs Lunch on TSN 1050. “Then you wait until July 2 to see where you’re at, and that’s where I think the rubber hits the road. There’s no way that Toronto doesn’t make an aggressive offer, and Dubas may do that before June 26 and very likely before July 1.”“I think it’s got to be north of $10.5 million and maybe north of $11 (million) … and I think that the Maple Leafs will come in with a pretty eager offer over $10 (million).”"

There are a couple of things that jump out here. Dreger said Marner could visit potential offer sheet teams is a new one because the media has only thrown out the possibility of offer sheets. On top of that, he thinks Dubas will have to come in with an aggressive offer which would probably pay him above market value to avoid having this process drag out longer which he’s said before.

Looking at the idea of an offer sheet there are a couple of factors which will impact the number of teams capable of handing one out. These clubs will need the salary cap flexibility and draft picks (four first rounders) to get it done.

Luke Fox of Sportsnet wrote recently that seven teams would be able to pull off a big offer sheet this off-season including; the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres.

Out of all those teams, do any scream as major threats to the Leafs ability to keep Marner? People suggest the Islanders because of Lou Lamoriello who obviously knows Marner and could deliver a nice little gift to Islanders fans after what happened with John Tavares.

Again, this is not something that can easily happen but obviously, Marner’s camp is using this possibility as a negotiation tactic and it will be interesting to see how the Leafs could respond to this. Can they afford to test Marner’s desire to remain with the Leafs?

Some might say the Leafs didn’t get enough from Matthews in their negotiation since they only got five years and didn’t save on the cap hit either. What they did get was their best player signed before they encountered more potential problems.

So the real question in all this is what does Marner expect to get, and what should he get?

If Marner was a centre, the debate would be a lot easier and while he definitely plays a crucial role on the Leafs, the fact he isn’t a centre makes it tough to justify paying him more than Matthews and Tavares.

Now there have been the Patrick Kane and Nikita Kucherov debates thrown out there and those are probably better comparables when it comes to production and role. With the salary cap expected to rise, agents are going to try to use cap hit percentage to get the right value for their clients.

When it comes to Marner, he should probably be looking to get 10-12 per cent of the cap. This keeps his cap hit in the $9-10 million range. Not quite the same value as Matthews but certainly a fair enough value considering that’s what elite wingers get.

Kane obviously signed a deal with Jonathan Toews after leading the Chicago Blackhawks to a couple of Stanley Cups and it was also his second contract. This is what makes it tough because there aren’t many players who sign big deals right out of their entry-level deal. They generally have a shorter contract that sets them up for a bigger one down the road.

Now, teams are trying to get their players locked up while they can and hopefully provide them clarity to make other moves. This is the dilemma the Leafs face because without knowing Marner’s cap hit, their hands are basically tied.

So this is where Marner will have to decide what he wants because the longer this drags on, fans won’t be as forgiving if he decides to hold out or sign an offer sheet unless they think the Leafs are forcing him into that situation.

Next. Breaking down second-round forward draft targets. dark

It’s not like the team was a win or two away from the Stanley Cup, they still need to make improvements and it will be tougher with this negotiation dragging on longer than it should.