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Photo Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Marner contract sends clear message from Leafs management

We can and we will. A sentiment said by GM Kyle Dubas last summer with all three of the former top prospects that have become high-performing NHL forwards, still unsigned to second contracts.

Those simply three words meant a lot to every single Leafs fan. Either as a challenge for those that question the General Manager’s ability to do just that, or as hope to have a young core that will be locked up for a long time, full of potential playoff runs.

It was a reason to take Dubas at his word and instill confidence into his capability to sign all three of Marner, Matthews, and Nylander.

Throughout the NHL, GMs don’t generally give such a bold statement of certainty that they will be able to sign three high-calibre players. Especially in such a ravenous media market that would not stop talking about it if he ended up not being able to put pen to paper.

With tight-lipped organizations being the norm in this league, Dubas’ statement gave a weird sense of relief for most fans. Trusting in the manager that Brendan Shanahan — the man that deserves the most credit for turning around this entire franchise — put in charge.

It took over a year to do, but all three forwards are here for the next five years and will most likely be here beyond that mark. This organization trusts in the elite players they they have, not fiddling around with the core forwards and hypothesizing about what defensive defenceman they can get in a trade involving one of them.

There’s no denying that the Marner negotiation appeared to be the most difficult. The player wanted to sign a landmark contract that set a new bar for players coming into their prime to get the money that they are worth. Not going through the normal process when it comes to young stars in the NHL, Marner was not going to take a discounted bridge contract.

It obviously didn’t benefit the Leafs in any way. As more and more young stars get signed over the years, it might be common to look back on this contract and say “the first through the wall always gets bloody”.

Even if it still seems like a overpay in a couple years, this organization from top to bottom seemed to prefer retaining their current players compared to going a different route with players outside of the Leafs. Trying to change the core in the middle of their window of contention could backfire on them, hypothetically.

Enduring this whole saga and coming out with Marner signing a six-year contract demonstrates the Leafs’ desire to keep this group of forwards the way it is.

They would rather go at it again with roughly the same forwards and just bank on improvement as they grow into their prime age of production.

This upcoming regular season has plenty riding on it. They have important players with just one or two years left on their current contracts.

Mainstays Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman have only this year and next secured, while more newcomers Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie have just this one upcoming season left on their current contracts. There is now a defined period of time that the Leafs have to take full advantage of the embarrassment of riches they have.

Now that Marner is locked-up, there are just peripheral players to worry about — the complimentary pieces to add production to the core that will be here for several seasons. It is going to be a wild ride, full of ups and surely some downs, but the Leafs have what they want and have sacrificed to do it.