With the odds of the Toronto Maple Leafs signing Mitch Marner to a long-term deal becoming less likely, they need to find a compromise on a bridge deal.
Of course, the team would prefer to have Marner signed to a long-term deal but as we get closer to training camp, it is becoming less likely. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible but really we appear to be at a point where a short-term deal makes sense.
Everyone probably saw the three-year $15 million bridge deal the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Zack Werenski to on Monday which has a lot of people wondering if this is the route the Leafs will go. Unlike Werenski, many expect Marner to demand more on a potential three-year deal but how much higher would the Leafs be willing to go?
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Bob McKenzie tweeted out different scenarios for Marner including a three-year deal with an average cap hit of $9 million that people are suggesting but the important part of the contract structure is what the third year would look like. Is it realistic to expect the Leafs to give Marner all that money and still put him in a position where he gets close to being an unrestricted free agent?
Even McKenzie points out that teams do bridge deal to get a lower cap hit and then they can go with a higher salary/cap hit one year before free agency. That certainly benefits the player to get a nice raise and leverage in arbitration with an inflated qualifying offer.
So what makes sense for the Leafs in a bridge deal for Marner?
If he wants to do a three-year deal the cap hit can’t go past $8 million which is certainly fair because the Leafs would not be at the cap ceiling and Marner gets another chance to make more money if he performs his current deal.
How does this compare to other RFAs who went on to make more on their next deal? After his entry-level deal was up, Artemi Panarin signed a two-year deal $12 million contract in 2017 with the Chicago Blackhawks before he eventually got his big deal with the New York Rangers as a UFA.
Panarin counted towards 8.22 per cent of the cap which would be roughly $7 million on the current cap but if we are talking about a three-year deal, that’s where it gets expensive. There is no way the Leafs will sign Marner to a five-year deal and have him and Auston Matthews become UFAs in the same year.
So the Leafs should look to sign Marner to a two or three-year contract that pays him roughly $8 million a season and they can even put in a nice signing bonus like they have done with other contracts. This is still a good chunk of change in the short term for Marner and the Leafs can still operate knowing what his number will be for the next couple of seasons.
What should the Leafs try to do with Marner’s deal? Does it make sense to give him a bridge deal? Let us know in the comments below.