Today, we take a slight departure from the normal by going into the heart of darkness known as the Mitch Marner negotiations. The lack of progress has caused some ripple effects that are driving fans, media, and the like crazy. Ultimately, this effects more than just the Toronto Maple Leafs. The NHL will feel the pain – whether it be by eventual lockout along with several teams who will shell out more dollars.
Anyway, let’s dive into the deep end.
First, there are other restricted free agents too.
There are the “big three” basically. Besides Marner, Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche are still in limbo. Technically, Tampa Bay and Colorado are not at the level of cap crunch hell that Toronto is experiencing. However, since no one wants to set the market, none of these players have signed. It is like playing musical chairs, but someone forgot to start the music.
Would it have been nice for the market to be set already? Absolutely. Is there still time? Sure! However, this will create a secondary market of sorts come September that goes right into training camp and possibly the preseason.
Second, hey look there’s Jake Gardiner
Oddly, Gardiner probably still wants to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. So, one of the more prominent unrestricted free agents of this summer sits in limbo waiting for some movement. The defenseman was hoping for something to happen quickly, but those chances evaporated quickly.
There were some concerns about his back but those were quietly dismissed. The real reason is because Mitch Marner has not signed in Toronto yet. That is the reality.
Third, media and fans alike knew this was coming and yet...
Again, what else did anyone expect here? However, the hype machine from fans and media bordered on whimsical fantasy at times from before July 1st. Scenarios were flung out there like okay let’s see what sticks here. The result is more trying to sort out fact from fiction than seeing any progress of substance.
Simply, the known is that most everyone has gone home for the summer. The see you in September sign seems up in full force. Marner and his dad want the best deal possible in a mid-RFA scenario. Yes, the winger is only 22-years old.
Fourth, that magic dollar amount has an effect beyond this year…
The post entry-level contract for players is coming for a slew of skaters in 2020. They will be looking actively at what Mitch Marner receives as payment. Some teams are in a holding pattern simply because they need to gauge the rise of the salary cap along with player demands. At some point, Marner will sign. Even if the other members of the “big three” sign first, Marner is the ultimate market setter.
The longer he sits out there, the longer everyone waits. That includes the 2020 restricted free agents and indirectly, the unrestricted free agent class in the process.
Finally, remember those offer sheets and all the alleged scenarios?
It is the one thing that was widely speculated forever. Marner was almost going to seek an offer sheet. Well, none of that has materialized. Honestly, there have been no concrete offers on the table. The only thing the Sebastian Aho offer sheet did was make it easier for the Carolina Hurricanes to re-sign him.
As for Marner, the fallout has included a scenario of alleged offers that Toronto has made in tiered form. Nobody knows if these are actual offers either. The same goes for Brayden Point and Mikko Rantanen. It has become a series of alleged possibilities.
With a market this full of limbo, September expects to be a jammed month that could very well spin into October in some cases. The secondary market including PTO’s must wait a bit longer all thanks to a father and his dream of dollars for his son.
In the meantime, all we can do is wait and hope for an August miracle.
By Chris Wassel