Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner is exceptionally skilled but also makes a lot of money which has drawn a fair amount of criticism from Leafs Nation.
As the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to fall short of expectations in the playoffs, some fans have begun to question the top-heavy roster-building approach set out by general manager Kyle Dubas.
Mitch Marner is one of the Maple Leafs high paid forwards, bringing in an average annual value of $10.893 million. The former London Knight has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief career.
After considering the William Nylander debate, our off-season look at the Maple Leafs roster continues by wondering if Mitch Marner is worth the money he is being paid. Let’s take a look.
Marner is one of the best young offensive players in hockey
The Maple Leafs selected Marner fourth overall in 2015 after he set fire to the OHL with the Knights. The Markham native had 125 points in 63 games in 2014-15 with London and followed it up in 2015-16 with 116 points in 57 games.
He made the jump to the Maple Leafs in 2016-17 and promptly recorded 61 points in 77 games as a rookie. The winger finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting that year as the NHL’s top rookie.
In his three subsequent seasons, Marner has tallied an additional 230 points over 223 games. He is steadily increasing his points per game production and has 14 career game winners.
Marner is also being paid handsomely, with five years remaining on a six-year deal worth $65.358 million. His cap hit of $10.893 million is seventh in the entire NHL. Has he been the seventh most productive player in his four seasons? No, but he is also only 23 years-old and contracts that are paying for future performance are preferable.
The real question is how does he compare with peers of a similar age over that time? Using Stathead’s premium player statistics finder, Marner ranks third in the NHL among players 23 in under in scoring from 2016-2020. Only Connor McDavid and David Pastrnak have more points.
However, on a closer look, Marner is eighth in the league on a points per game basis during that time frame amongst his peers. Either way, he is among the league’s elite point producers over the past four seasons, especially so when his age is taken into account.
Mitch Marner’s defensive shortcomings and playoff failures are overstated
Again, nobody should expect a 23-year-old to be the best two-way forward in the league. Some think Marner is a defensive liability who stinks in the playoffs. As is the case with Nylander, the whole team has been a defensive liability who stinks in the playoffs.
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Although statistics and analytics are not everything, let’s take a look at what some of the numbers say about Marner’s defence and playoff performance. Last season, Marner blocked 37 shots, which was third-most on the team behind Auston Matthews and Alexander Kerfoot.
The winger also produced 1.3 defensive point shares, which is a metric of the estimated number of a team’s points in the standings provided by a player’s defence. This also ranked third amongst forwards behind Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman (a reminder that Matthews is pretty great).
Marner is also an above-average player in puck possession by both Corsi for and Fenwick for percentages. He also led all forwards last season in ice time, logging 21:33 per game.
So what about the playoffs? In 25 career postseason games, Marner has put up 21 points, which is behind his regular point per season pace. But it is not terribly so and he is certainly not the reason the Leafs keep getting sent home. He was second on the team in points against Columbus in the qualifying round and recorded four blocked shots and five hits.
The question I am coming back to is whether or not Marner is worth $10.893 million. He was not in his first season of the contract last year. But he does have five more seasons of growth before we can make an accurate assessment of this.
I know that’s a bit of a cop-out, but Marner, like this iteration of the Maple Leafs, is a work in progress still. For me, I would rather have Marner on the team, than not have him and the Leafs’ brass has made the roster more balanced heading into next season, whenever that is.
What do you think of Mitch Marner’s first four seasons in Toronto? Is he worth the contract he signed last year or is it too soon to tell? Let us know in the comments below.