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Trying to understand Marner’s point of view

It feels like I’ve spent a good chunk of the past couple of weeks roasting Mitch Marner on this website. I’m not saying I was wrong. My interpretation of his contract demands are that he is seriously disconnected from reality, and outside the money thrown at Auston Matthews, he doesn’t particularly have a leg to stand on in regards to what he’s asking for.

That being said, Mitch Marner doesn’t seem like he’s the greatest evil to grace the Leafs since Harold Ballard and rather, he seems like he’s an important part of the core of the franchise that has given us a sense of optimism that hasn’t existed in 25 years. I’m willing to bet that for many of us there will be an “all is forgiven attitude provided he is capable of producing at even 90% of what he did last year, so I’m willing to try and understand his point of view a bit better now, even while fundamentally disagreeing with him.

He’s as good as Auston Matthews and should be paid inline with him

Using nothing more than points, you can see why Marner is pushing for money that would be similar to Matthews and Tavares. Off of points, he’s the king. If you switch that to even strength points, goals, points per 60, or anything else, the story changes, but the most basic of stats says that he’s up there. We’re going to grant him that he wants to be amongst his exclusively Leafs peers in that regard.

Our arguments against him have been by taking the two seconds to look outside the Leafs, and that there are plenty of other wingers with results similar or better that have much more team friendly deals, and even those that aren’t team friendly, seem less outlandish.

You could argue that Tavares needs to be excluded from any comparison because unrestricted free agents and mercenaries you are paying top dollar for, and by their very nature every one of them is going to be an overpay.

It’s been suggested that there was a very real threat of an offersheet on Auston Matthews that compelled the Leafs to overpay (to what extent it was an overpayment can be debated) for the face of the franchise, and unfortunately for Mitch, there is a pecking order of priorities for the team, and he’s behind Auston.

That may be a bitter pill to swallow and it seems like Marner and his camp are refusing to do so. There’s been an argument that in a year that didn’t have McDavid and Eichel, Marner would be a 1st overall caliber player, and should be treated as show, but if your best argument is a hypothetical world where Marner was in the Nial Yakupov draft, you probably need to drop it.

He was wronged in the past

Lou Lamoriello hates bonuses, and like with Marleau and Zaitsev, this is another Lou tendency that is coming back to bite the Leafs this summer. If Marner felt disrespected by Lou, that’s probably something that needs to be left in the past. In fact, you could make the case that his ability to affordably fit into the roster gave him a shot at the NHL sooner than a prospect over-ripener like Mike Babcock would have gave him. In the alternate history where Marner got his bonuses, he might not be a free agent until next season. That’s probably a stretch, but I want to note that both sides can play revisionist history.

If this is something that is so important to Marner that he’s willing to miss part of the season, I think it is something the Leafs need to address in some capacity, but you’d think that offering term would show that respect for Mitch. Given that Mitch doesn’t want term, perhaps this is an argument that the Leafs could be more compromising on the term he does want, but of course, again that needs to be done within reason.

He’s damned healthy

Marner hasn’t missed the time that Matthews has, and that seems to be another talking point that has come up. For all the rate stats showing that Matthews is better, Matthews missing 15 games where he doesn’t provide any value is 15 games where Marner was 100% better by default, and showing up to work often matters, except that there doesn’t seem to be any consideration of this in Leafs land.

This might be an area where I do fully agree with Mitch, but again not to the point where it closes any significant gap between what the Leafs are offering and what he’d sign. Perhaps it’s his health that makes a bet on himself short term deal makes sense to him, and that’s why he’s unwilling to compromise on pay, because in reality as a 90 point first line winger, he believes he’s past the “prove it” part of his career and straight up wants to get paid.

He deserves to control his own fate

I’m bringing this one up as a long standing hater of the limitations on players in their collective bargaining agreement. If Mitch Marner wasn’t on the Leafs, there would be a very good chance that I would be all about him fighting to get his. In fact, I was very much in favour of William Nylander fighting to get his last season, but a large part of that was feeling his contract demands were inline with what I thought was reasonable.

Marner was drafted by a team and had no choice over where his rights would be to start his career. Following that, he’s locked in for another 7-8 years with that club being able to match any external contract offer, choice what they will offer him, and give him very limited options in recourse. Marner is using the only real tools at his disposal in this situation, and while I’ve faulted him for his disconnection from reality, I still respect his right to take a multi-billion dollar telecommunications monopoly to the cleaners. If there wasn’t a hard cap in the NHL, there is very little chance that Marner’s pay is an issue for any of us, but the NHL has engineered this hostility towards players. I think that’s why it will be very easy to forgive Marner when all is said and done, but dang, this is a process.

In conclusion…

This situation sucks. Marner is probably getting a lot of bad advice and has had his head filled with a lot of numbers that seem absolutely ridiculous. That being said, all of us that care way too much about the salary cap are going to end up facing some tough truths at the end of the day, and Marner is going to get a very nice payday that we don’t agree with. Things like Marner very clearly outperforming a player like Jack Eichel are a case for him making more than $10M a year, the Leafs paying their other two star players over $11M doesn’t help our cases either. Will we ultimately be left crying about our most favourable comparibles, yeah, probably, but in reality the 3 year, $9.5M deal is seemingly justifiable, we just don’t like it, and something needs to be done about that inflated third year number, as a $12-15M kicker is a pretty strong slap in the face to the team.