Is it still a bridge if it only gets one side where it wants to go?
Yes, Jon. Those are called one way bridges, and you take one to work every day and one home every night. That being said, those aren’t particularly efficient bridges and leave people on one side wanting a hell of a lot more.
Enter the proposed Marner bridge deal that was floated by Bob McKenzie after the Zach Werenski signing:
So to clean that up a little based on estimated average annual values and salaries…
So Bob basically summed up the fact that this essentially puts Marner into unrestricted free agency a year early, as the Leafs will either be at the point where they are going to either
A) Match and try to move Marner to an interested party before arbitration
B) Not match the contract and Marner goes to unrestricted free agency
C) Go with club elected arbitration that would allow them to negotiate lower, but risk alienating Marner in the process
D) Negotiate a contract with less leverage than they have now.
Pretty much all of these scenarios are where the Leafs are today or worse, but give the Leafs three more seasons of an inflated price Marner over that time (Potentially 2 if there’s a lockout). The fact that the Leafs should already be against the idea of going over $9M on Marner without the slap in the face $12M final year which throws off the ability to qualify Marner, and when you consider that we haven’t even considered what the bonus structure would look like, the idea of letting Mitch spend the year in Switzerland gets more appealing every second (please note he’s not going to Switzerland.)
I’m yet to see anything that looks like a concession to the Leafs in this. The Leafs would be left with a bad contract (albeit on a great player) that would potentially be difficult to move (assuming they wanted to) and would require this painful saga to play out incredibly soon. At least Matthews and Nylander had the decency to give the Leafs some term before ringing the bell.
Trading off risk
TOR has made seven and eight year offers in the $11M AAV universe but because it’s a lower AAV and longer term than Auston Matthews, it hasn’t been palatable to Marner.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 11, 2019
Bob McKenzie said the goal of the club is trade off the risk, and to some extent, I think the Leafs might be willing to accept some of that risk. The $12M final year poses an interesting challenge for the Leafs to get Marner signed at something realistic, or move him out to someone who can stand his price. Not a fun task, but it’s a bit of outside the box thinking. The problem is that if the Leafs are doing that, they should be gaining back something more important to them, and that’s the cap hit.
If Marner wants to ring the bell later, he’s going to need to come in reasonably in years one and two to make it work.
It’s hard to imagine Marner going for the smaller paydays in Year 1 and Year 2, but if Year 3 strengthens his negotiating standpoint, he’s still walking away with a win, while the Leafs are walking away with getting Marner at what is, unfortunately, going to be considered a reasonable bridge amount. Chipping away at the Year 3 number would also be nice, but let’s assume that’s the carrot being dangled for Mitch in this, along with the term, and likely with bonus laden deals in the first two years as well.
Perhaps the best thing to do is hope that what the Leafs are attempting is nothing like what Zach Werenski did with the Blue Jackets. It seems as Bob is largely speculating here and applying the most recent and best comparable of a bridge deal to the situation.
What it does is raise an important new issue that many of us hadn’t previously considered, and that’s the third year salary on a three year deal.