The news regarding negotiations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and representatives for restricted free agent Mitch Marner do not inspire much confidence that the two sides will reach an accommodation in the next few weeks.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Bob McKenzie have both reported that the Leafs were willing to and had offered Marner as much as $11 Million per season on a seven or eight year deal, but that the Marner camp has been looking for a short-term bridge deal.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has indicated a willingness to sign a short term deal, but Marner is looking for contract structures similar to that of San Jose’s Timo Meier and Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, with the high-salaried final year that would make for a high qualifying offer and a clear path to unrestricted free agency.
Friedman indicated Marner’s representatives pitched a bridge deal with a third season of $15 Million, an amount higher than Connor McDavid’s league-high $12.5 Million salary.
The desire for a bridge deal is understandable since it inches Marner closer to unrestricted free agency and gets him another potential big payday in his mid-20’s, but there is usually a trade off for the club of a lower salary on that second contract.
The Leafs desire for a long-term deal is understandable because Dubas will then have cost certainty for the next five or six seasons with Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares all locked up.
As it currently stands, the Marner camp looks like they want to have their cake and eat it too, and are losing the perception battle with the fans by appearing unreasonable. That may have not been an overriding concern for Nylander, but is definitely something that the Toronto native has taken advantage of during his first three seasons and wants to continue doing in the future.
The likely compromise is on a shorter-term deal. The Blue Jackets got an AAV of $5 Million with Werenski by giving the 22-year-old a $7 Million salary in year three. The Leafs will probably yield to the demand of a back loaded third year, but the AAV will have to be lower than the reported $10 Million per season that the Marner camp proposed.
If the salary ends up being in the $8 to $8.5 Million range, both sides can say they got something out of the deal, but if it goes up to $9.5 to 10 Million, then the Leafs will be paying more than double of the highest bridge deal in NHL history and getting no concessions in return.
Toronto opens training camp on Thursday with medicals and media availabilities at the Ford Performance Centre (formerly the MasterCard Centre) in Etobicoke, ON before departing for St. Johns, Newfoundland for a weekend of on-ice work and their first preseason game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, September 17.
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