The pressure is on. Teams are starting to get together and preparing for the 82 games that are ahead of them in less than a month, but some prime young stars are still on the sidelines as restricted free agents. Apparently, some of them don’t want to accept a historic long-term deal for their hometown team.
What’s holding up the Marner and Boeser deals? Should the NHL shrink their exhibition schedule? @FriedgeHNIC talks all that and so much more in the season premiere of 31 Thoughts.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 10, 2019
In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts — where all the juicy details and some new information is always expected — he provided a wealth of detail in how the negotiations between the Leafs and Mitch Marner are currently going.
It is impossible to write or talk about Marner without offending someone, so here is my attempt at a bias-free take: It’s tense and personal. My belief is Toronto is willing to go to an $11-million AAV, but only if he signs for seven years. I’d heard both sides might agree to two years — then let arbitration sort it out — but a few sources threw cold water on that. I mentioned during a radio hit last week the rumour that Marner’s representatives pitched a three-year contract with a structure similar to the Meier/Werenski setup, with the third season as high as $15 million. However, I’m told that was several months ago and is no longer relevant, although both sides have continued to explore that kind of an option. I don’t sense things are anywhere close.
If there was anyone feeling positive about the two sides reaching an agreement before the season or even in the first month of the season, that should dampen some spirits. The crushing blow of “I don’t sense things are anywhere close”, is a crucial point that should tell where things are heading and where this situation is currently.
The most significant piece of information that Friedman provided was that the Leafs were willing to sign a contract that would span over seven years, with a cap hit of $11-million. That would make Marner the highest-paid player coming out of the Entry-Level Contract by an extremely wide margin.
There are no reports that the player has received this offer as an official contract, but rather that the Leafs are willing to take it that far if it gets the deal done.
What might get the deal done — according to some sources from months ago, according to Friedman — is a contract similar to that of Zach Werenski and Timo Meier. Short-term deals with massive salaries in the last year that forces the team to offer that as a qualifying offer when the contract expires.
Essentially this type of deal adds another year to the contract, but at the cap hit of the salary in the final year. According to Friedman, Marner’s representatives want a qualifying offer of $15-million — a completely unprecedented number in the NHL.
Something that the player could hypothetically want is a three-year deal with a cap hit of $10.75-million — the minimum AAV for a contract of this length that involves a qualifying offer the size that Marner wants.
This would cause a massive headache for GM Kyle Dubas and the future of this team. Tavares, Matthews and Nylander would still be on their current contracts, but Rielly and Andersen — two vital pieces for the future success of this team — would need new contracts before Marner’s hypothetical three-year deal would finish.
In recent memory, there has never been a single player negotiation that has wanted so much from the team than the current situation with Marner. Him and his representatives are asking the world of the Leafs, a team already in a cap crunch and a team he grew up cheering for. This is unheard of in the NHL.
There is being pro-player and wanting the players to earn their fair share of the market, but then there is asking for something that has never been asked for before. With this desirable deal for the winger, it walks him right to free agency, where he will no doubt ask to be paid higher than his respective peers.
This is a scenario with no end in sight. A constant battle between player evaluation and what the market dictates for a player’s contract.
We’re all losers in this ceaseless battle for more millions.