Things have gotten a little silly over the last 24 hours, so let’s just get right into it. Mitch Marner’s agent Darren Ferris decided last night was a great time to stir the pot, and I mean really stir it, causing a bit of a firestorm in Toronto this morning over his pending contract talks.
From the Star, on why a contract hasn’t materialized yet.
“So far they’ve been trying to lowball (Marner). That’s the reason we’ve come to this point.”
Okay, that’s relatively routine. Teams make low offers early.
On the Nylander and Matthews contracts, and Marner’s negotiation history with the team.
“Nobody else is taking a discount. And now you’re asking (Marner) to take one again? It’s nonsense. Mitch already did them a favour on the entry-level deal.”
Again? Nonsense? That’s new.
And finally, on where this is all headed, and the potential of things not working out in Toronto.
“Mitch will get what Mitch is due. But as for the Maple Leafs, it’s up to them how they value him. If it works out with them, it works out. We’ll see at the end of the year what their position is and whether they’re motivated to sign him…”
I mean, calling the Leafs’ offers “nonsense” and implying it might not work out in Toronto, that’s about as inflammatory a comment I’ve seen from an NHL agent (which admittedly is a boring league in this regard). For all the talk about Marner and the Leafs leaving negotiations for the summer in order to avoid distractions during the season, this seems to go about as far the other way as is humanly possible. This quote was delivered on the day of Auston Matthews celebrating a new contract with the team, no less. It was a huge day for the organization, and Ferris tried to shit all over it. The entire morning skate media availability today was not about Matthews, but about Marner’s agent.
And I mean, I sort of appreciate the effort here. It’s greasy, but who knows, maybe this type of negotiation tactic works sometimes? Ah, maybe not. But at the very least it makes for good entertainment. When you negotiate through the media to the point of trying to take the spotlight from Matthews on the day he signed the biggest contract of his life, this is the type of attention it grabs. Marner’s agent was trending on Twitter nation-wide this morning — perhaps not the publicity he wanted.
Mitch Marner's agent also represents Josh Anderson (CBJ) and Andreas Athanasiou (DET).
Both players held out.
They have around 5 other NHL players as per their website. Quite the holdout-to-player ratio.
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) February 6, 2019
But it’s obvious someone, maybe Marner himself, told Ferris to dial it back overnight. This morning the agent did a full radio tour of damage control to try to get things under wraps.
Ferris seems to trip all over himself to change the tone and “clarify” his statements as being related to last summer, but that doesn’t make much sense, as Nylander and Matthews didn’t have contracts at that point in time. He called what the Leafs were doing “nonsense” yesterday, and then turned around this morning to say what they offered is totally normal and is what every team stars with. The panic in his voice in these radio hits is palpable.
"Kyle [Dubas] wants the best value he can get. At the same time, I want to protect my client and do the best job I can to get him the most money."
Mitch Marner's agent clarifies his comments on the Leafs lowballing his client. pic.twitter.com/wXr7glqTRw
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 6, 2019
Darren Ferris also told @FirstUp1050 the "unfortunate" comments that surfaced last night about #Leafs "lowballing" Marner, etc were "taken out of context" and from where talks were at in summer: "In normal negotiations, everyone starts off low, and you get to a common ground."
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) February 6, 2019
Ferris also followed up on the Fan by saying “..the discussions have been going in the right direction, and Mitch will be a Leaf for a long time, and I’m sure that everything will work out.”
Talk about walking it back. The full quote from Feschuk’s article in the Star is pretty straightforward, and the “taken out of context” excuse doesn’t really seem to work here. Instead, this appears to be a learning experience about letting the media narrative spin out of control when you leak too much information or try to grab the spotlight, and this is a hard way of finding out Toronto is clearly a different beast in this regard. And when it comes to in-season distractions, it’s getting to the point where this group has already created more than Nylander and Matthews combined, so it might be time to start wondering if these kind of blunders result in the player and agent parting ways if they keep popping up.