By Cole Parkinson
When is Mitch Marner going to sign?
I’m tired of talking about it, I’m tired of reading about it and I’m tired of hearing about it but here we are and no contract has been signed with Toronto Maple Leafs training camp on the horizon.
The Leafs don’t have the luxury to pro-rate Marner’s contract deeper into the regular season this year due to their cap situation like they did when Willy Nylander signed last year right before the deadline.
This year there will be a deadline well before December 1.
Already over the cap, though LTIR will be used on the contracts for both Nathan Horton and David Clarkson, the good news is there is still plenty of room to get a deal done as long as both sides are willing to play ball.
Now reports from TSN’s Darren Dreger are saying Marner will potentially head to Switzerland to train while his agent Darren Farris and the Leafs front office continues to work towards a deal.
Now I don’t know the exact numbers being discussed, and really no one does except the people in the room, but from reports, it seems like the Marner camp is hell-bent on getting the Auston Matthews contract of five years at $11.364 million.
A report from The Athletic’s James Mirtle also says offers of three-year, six-year and seven-year deals have been offered with a financial range of $9 to $11 million.
If that is the case, why has he not signed at that?
Now don’t get me wrong, players should sign for what they feel they are worth but how can you not be happy with somewhere between $9 and $11 million to play in your hometown?
If money is the issue, he will make way more than the difference from sponsorships and commercials, I mean just look at what John Tavares did last season.
You couldn’t watch a Leafs game without five or six commercials featuring JT.
Now, these are just reports so it is hard to know if what is being reported is actually is what is being discussed by the two sides.
If the Leafs are actually offering a seven-year deal at $7 million, then for sure Marner should hold out but the fact they offered Matthews well over $11 million, I don’t think that is the case.
And Marner isn’t the only RFA still holding out either.
The Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk, the Lighting’s Brayden Point and the Jets’ Patrik Laine are just a few of the names still without deals heading into the 2019-2020 season.
RFAs are starting to demand the money right out of the gate rather than in their UFA years and it does make some sense, though most of them have accomplished very little in their NHL careers.
On one side, most of these contracts will cover a large portion of the player’s prime years so it makes sense to pay them for it but on the other hand, it’s hard to hand over the keys to the city to these guys when they haven’t won anything.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are prime examples of players who were rewarded with massive contracts after bringing championships to their team but I think that is well in the past now.
Players want to be paid now rather than later and it is hard to blame them when careers in pro sports are getting shorter and shorter.
On the Leafs end, a large portion of their cap is going towards their young stud forwards.
Matthews at $11.364 is an over-pay and likely will be for the first couple years but you have to think in years three to five, it’s a discount especially if he can stay healthy and produce like he can.
Nylander’s contract will also be a steal in a few years especially at $6.9 million.
In other words, I get it.
Marner sees the other two young guns take every penny they can and now he’s doing the same.
The only thing is, how is he taking a hometown discount at say $9.5 over six years?
Considering the best winger in the game, Nikita Kucherov, is making $9.5 over eight years, Marner can’t seriously be unhappy with that kind of change in his pocket.
If I’m Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, I’m not overpaying or giving a ridiculous short term offer at big money.
If Marner wants to play this year and play in Toronto, accept a fair deal for both sides.
Otherwise, Mitch may be overseas all year making around $1 million maximum and losing a year of his prime.
This hurts the team too, especially since they once again have Stanley Cup aspirations and taking Marner out of the lineup is less than ideal.
Is it back-breaking?
No, but that means you’re hoping Kasperi Kapanen can be a top-six winger with either Matthews or Tavares while a Marlie can come up and play third-line minutes.
Not having a contract in place before the start of the regular season is the worst-case scenario for both sides so it’s about time they find some middle ground that doesn’t underpay Marner and doesn’t force Toronto to trade away four or five of their opening day roster.
Even beyond this year, the cap situation still isn’t crystal clear with five of their six projected top-six defenceman needing contracts. So getting Marner locked up next year is important to give the front office an idea of what they will have on the books.
Otherwise, I expect he’ll sit out and we’ll do it all over again come next summer but I really, really hope we don’t have to do this three years in a row. I’ve been a Leafs fan my entire life and this is the best-assembled team since the early 2000s with Mats Sundin (the best Leaf of all-time), and yet the contract talk is as painful as the teams assembled from 2005 to 2015 (minus 2013).
So wake me up on October 2 when the regular season finally kicks off.