Tuesday, August 27, 2019

If Leafs lose Mitch Marner, it's their own fault

Mitch Marner
If the Toronto Maple Leafs lose Mitch Marner, they have only themselves to blame.  Marner isn't saying much, only that he is trying to enjoy the summer.  In July, however, the 22-year-old restricted free agent indicated that he would refuse to go to training camp without a contract.  Well, July has turned into late August.  September and Labour Day are fast approaching.  As of this writing, there is still no agreement between Mitch and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If negotiations continue to stall, the talented right winger may practise with the Zurich Lions of the Swiss League  According to the Lions, an agent has inquired about the possibility of Marner training with the team if contract talks with the Maple Leafs do not progress.  So, there is a very real chance that Mitch may be heading to Switzerland this fall, although the Zurich Lions tweeted that whether and when Mitch will train with them, "is not decided yet."

It appears that Marner is ready to play hardball and hold out for what he wants, otherwise he'll walk.  Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has stated that if Mitch Marner or any other Toronto free agent signs an offer sheet with another team, the Leafs might let the player go.  Of course, this may be just posturing on the part of both parties in order to speed up the process.

Even so, Marner may not back down on his demands and the Leafs have a cap limit.  This is all too reminiscent of last year's dispute with William Nylander.  The Swedish forward held out, but eventually acquiesced to a six-year $45-million contract in December of 2018.  The Nylander agreement carries a salary cap hit of just over $6.96 mullion for the next five seasons.

My question is this: Why did the Maple Leafs agree to invest so much in William Nylander, especially when they knew they would have to deal with Auston Matthews and then Marner?  In February of  2019, the Leafs signed Matthews to a five-year contract extension with an annual average value of $11.634 million.  At least Matthews had proven something.  In 2016-17, for example, he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.  He played 82 games and established Maple Leaf rookie records for goals (40) and points (69) in a season.  In 2017-2018, he played 62 games and recorded 34 goals, and 29 assists for 63 points. In 2018-19, Matthews appeared in 68 games, scored 37 goals and registered 73 points.

Mitch Marner has also proven his value,  Last season, he played 82 games, scored 26 goals and recorded a whopping 68 assists for 94 points.  William Nylander, on the other hand, demanded a great deal before he had even proven his worth.  The Leafs actually played well during the time he sat out.  When Nylander finally returned, his play was laclustre and mediocre.  He certainly has potential and will most likely have a better season this year.  Still, I don't think he'll ever have the skill and finesse of a Mitch Marner.  If the Leafs hadn't made that lucrative deal with Nylander, they would have enough cap to afford Mitch Marner.  I hope they haven't lost Marner for Nylander's sake.  If Toronto had to give up one of those three young players due to the salary cap, it should have been William Nylander.

EDITOR'S UPDATE:  Fortunately, the Maple Leafs were able to reach an agreement with Mitch Marner on Friday, September 13, 2019.  He signed a six-year contract with an average annual value of $10.893 million.  It will be good to see Number 16 in a Leafs uniform again.  I am also pleased that the Leafs will finally select a captain.

- Joanne