I get it. You don’t want to hear about Mitch Marner or offer sheets or Paul Marner or Darren Dreger or frankly anything that isn’t the Leafs PR twitter account announcing a team friendly deal. All of that would be nice, but sadly it’s not the world we live in and with each new development we get a chance to restate our beliefs about how the Marner situation should be handled to any audience willing to pay attention.
I’m sure everyone in your life either real or online already knows the amount you’d be willing to sign Marner for, and when you’d let him walk for picks. They know whether you’d front load or include bonuses. They know the term you prefer and your stance on bridge contracts. We’ve all exhausted this, and are exhausted from it.
That being said, in the absence of real insiders who have retreated to their Muskoka getaways, we’ve had a flurry of information making the rounds connecting Mitch Marner to his former boss, Lou Lamoriello…
I’m hearing offer sheet coming on @Marner93
— Joey Vendetta (@RadioVendetta) July 5, 2019
— Hockey Buzz Eklund (@Eklund) July 4, 2019
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) July 5, 2019
Increased chatter at least 1 team is very seriously considering presenting Mitch Marner with an offer sheet. Unclear on timing, IF it happens. Of course, Marner would have to sign, and if he does, Leafs will have a decision to make. Something to watch, as talks with TOR continue.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 4, 2019
First, let’s consider how little actual information is leaked by the Leafs. Now let’s consider that Dubas is that way because he worked under the notoriously tight lipped Lou Lamoriello, who is apparently the other dance partner involved. While the Marner camp has been more than happy to put absolutely anything and everything out into the world for us to consume, it’s hard to imagine that Lou Lamoriello is as tolerant of this nonsense as Kyle Dubas. In short, all of this seems like a lot of nonsense that is being put out as easy content in a time when hockey content is scarce. (That’s exactly why I’m writing about this too.)
So now that we’ve acknowledged that this is highly unlikely thing to occur, let’s consider what it would take for the Marner camp to entertain this, why and how the Islanders would do this, and whether or not the Leafs would match.
The Sebastian Aho offer sheet has opened the door to negotiating the deal you want with your current team through another team, and it was executed perfectly with Marc Bergevin more than happy to play the stooge in this. I can’t see Lamoriello willingly playing a stooge, so any offer he puts out there will be genuine. The Marner camp is looking for a deal that expires at the start of Marner’s unrestricted free agent eligibility. He’s going to want a bonus laden deal that pays him during the potential lockout seasons, which is something a bit harder for the Isles to offer up, and he’s going to want something resembling the money that Auston Matthews was paid, a deal that would currently put the Isles over the salary cap, as well as the Leafs, but not so impossible with the movement of some players.
The Marner camp didn’t seem to carry the same sense of urgency as the Leafs in the negotiations, but with Aho already signed to a deal much friendly than what Marner was looking for, there might be a worry that contracts from Point and Tkachuk could make the case for paying Marner much less than he’s looking for. At this point the Leafs are likely the ones who benefit from patience, with the exception of the offer sheet scenario.
Marner would be perfectly happy to play for the Leafs, so I don’t think he’s too concerned if it’s matched or not, so he’s likely free to explore anything paying him in the $11M+ ballpark he seems to be lobbying for.
Other than the fact that every team in the NHL can use a team like Mitch Marner, I’m not sure why there are such strong ties to Islanders. There’s the Islanders fan revenge fantasy for the Leafs signing Tavares. There’s Lou’s familiarity with Marner, but that includes Mitch’s disappointment over not getting ELC bonuses and a rumoured tense relationship between Lamoriello and Paul Marner. There’s also the very real fact that signing Marner now would present a number of challenges for getting Mat Barzal signed next summer when he is a restricted free agent.
That’s not to say that none of this can happen, and with the rest of the Metropolitan division looking stacked next season, the Islanders need to make a move to catch up, as unsustainably hot goaltending is not the best strategy, especially when you let one of those goaltenders walk. Marner would be a piece that allows the Islanders to keep pace with the Devils and Rangers who have loaded up and the Capitals who are always strong, and it would push them away from the bubble of teams like the Flyers, Hurricanes, Penguins, and Blue Jackets.
So with that the Islanders would likely soon be parting with Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd would likely have a career ending injury, or something along those lines to make it work, but the Islanders aren’t exactly a free spending team either, and up front signing bonuses and paying players bonuses in potential lockout seasons aren’t things we’d expect to see. That’s not to say we won’t but there are some reasonable questions to ask about whether the Islanders pulling this off is plausible.
At this point the Leafs two motivating factors seem to be resolving this before training camp to avoid a Nylander situation, and finding a way to get Marner into the lineup without moving out players they actually want to play. For that to work, the Leafs need a cap hit of around $10.5M or less. Also the amount that is the cut off for offer sheet compensation being 2 1sts, a 2nd, and a 3rd instead of 4 1st round picks. That seems to be the solid line drawn in the sand, and frankly it’s a pretty agreeable one. No matter how good Marner is, that’s a lot of money to commit to winger.
Toronto has the easiest decision in any offer sheet situation, and I think that’s part of the reason why we won’t see one. No one is looking to do the Leafs a favour. Either you’ve handed the Leafs one of their star players back at a contract they were prepared to pay, or you’ve given them 4 1st round picks, and $10M of cap space to spend on the remaining free agents.
What if it’s not the Islanders?
Well, that’s a can of worms and while looking at the Islanders shows there’s always a possibility of an offer sheet, it’s still highly unlikely there are many teams out there looking to go this route. Most teams can afford Marner if they move out someone for futures. Futures they’d probably want to acquire after losing 4 years of firsts, but it’s still an uphill battle financially, and when it comes to the real money, especially the bonus money involved the teams that may try something shrinks significantly.
In closing, sure, why not talk about offer sheets because they certainly would be exciting. While it’s unlikely one happens, the small chance of one has the potential to hold our interest throughout a hockey-less couple of months. Frankly we wouldn’t be having these conversations if the Blue Jays were good. For now we’ll suffer through the cycle of rumour, denial, repeat, and hope that the actual negotiations are yielding something tangible.