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Another year, another first round exit for the Toronto Maple Leafs. On paper the Leafs had a roster that not only should have competed to come out of the North Division, but one that could have challenged for a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for the team, organization, and the fans they could not get the job done against the Montreal Canadiens and once again are sitting back wondering what happened.
Toronto has never been shy to make a big roster shakeup and while it's my belief it's in the best interest of the team to keep their core together, there are at least conversations being had about moving one of the big contracts. Tavares has a NMC and at 30 years old with four years left on an 11 million dollar deal his contract is nearly unmovable. Matthews is the franchise player and just won a Rocket Richard trophy. He isn't going anywhere. Nylander is an attractive option at 6.9 million but he was arguably the best forward for Toronto during the first round.
That leaves the heat on Mitch Marner. The 24 year old right winger has four more years left on a deal that pays a whopping 10.9 million per season. Marner has been above a ppg player over the past three seasons and in a shortened 56 game season, he was only six goals off his previous career high in goals of 26.
The issues come from his lack of playoff production. In 32 playoff games over his career, Marner has only scored 5 goals. He has not scored a goal in his past two playoff series. Aside from just a lack of production, Marner was directly responsible for a few key goals against during that Leafs/Canadiens series.
The argument for Toronto trading him is that while Marner is an elite player, having that many 10+ million dollar players hurts their depth elsewhere and 10.9 million could be used to pay three really good players instead of one great one. If Toronto entertained this thought process the challenge would be finding a team in a flat cap era to take on that full contract. Plenty of teams would want Marner but simply can't realistically make his contract fit.
Enter the Kraken.
Being a brand new Expansion team, the Seattle Kraken have nothing but cap space. Marner would immediately be the best player for Seattle and would create all the hype for the new franchise and help to put more butts in seats.
Now the obvious question, what could a potential trade even look like for Marner?
Option one would simply be straight draft picks across. To acquire Marner you are likely looking at offering at least three 1st round picks for Marner. One of those picks would be the Kraken's recently won 2nd overall pick in the 2021 Draft. If such a deal was made, Toronto would be likely be acquiring a young talented centreman on an ELC for three years in Matthew Beniers.
Value wise, three first round picks is likely a fair starting point for a Marner deal but depending on how much of a favor Francis is doing for Dubas, the value could be even lower. Remember just a couple years ago the Devils acquired P.K. Subban for only some prospects and a couple second round picks. This was when Subban was still believed to be a top pairing defender. The reason the Devils never had to give up a first round selection was because they were able to take on his entire contract. A similar case would apply with Marner.
The Kraken are a brand new team and they need to build through the draft so it's likely Ron Francis would not want to give up so many picks without knowing how effective the surrounding roster would be. An alternative option could be only offering the 2nd overall pick in combination with players that the Kraken acquire through the Expansion Draft. Seattle will be acquiring a plethora of middle six forwards, middle pairing defenders, and veteran goaltenders many of which Dubas may believe could be impact players around the core. Donskoi, Logan Stanley, Oshie, Devon Toews, Tierney, Jake Allen, could all be players that Seattle could be selecting and some of those could then be used as trade pieces for a blockbuster deal.
Just spit balling an offer and feel free to call me out Toronto fans, if you were offered the second overall pick this season, a second round pick, Devon Toews, and T.J. Oshie in exchange for Seattle to take on Marner's entire contract, would you do it?
Ultimately this is nothing more than speculation but just another example of how the Kraken could be a major player this off-season. The cap is now being expected to remain at a ceiling of 81.5 mill for likely the next four or more seasons. Seattle is going to have an exorbitant amount of cap space and if they can weaponize it correct they could become a real threat in the NHL sooner rather than later.
Thanks for reading