The checkpoints for the Maple Leafs if they wish to trade Mitch Marner

Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
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Trading a player with a no-movement clause isn’t easy. Especially if that player doesn’t necessarily want to be traded, the team isn’t sure if they want to trade them, there are only going to be certain places that player is willing to go, the return has to be right, and oh yeah, that player comes with a 10.903M cap hit. Nothing about a potential Marner trade appears easy and some of those details were made evident by Steve Simmons in his Sunday column:
According to Steve Simmons, “The NHL knows it’s open season on Marner offers… The Leafs won’t put the cart before the horse here. They will listen. If one of the offers meets their needs, then — and only then — will they involve Marner in the process and try to convince him why it’s in his best interest to look elsewhere” That’s all well and good from the Maple Leafs side of things, but there is still the Marner camp that needs to be appeased and as Pierre LeBrun alluded to this past week, the Marner camp is perfectly happy to burn through the last season on his contract with the Leafs and fully explore free agency.
So a lot of the Marner talk is an exercise in the hypothetical. Great, that’s fine. We’ve got almost three weeks to kill before the NHL draft, we can dip our toes in the hypothetical and address the two biggest questions that come out of the rumours and speculation this week, “what does a trade look like that is worth approaching Mitch Marner over?” and “where would Mitch Marner accept a trade to?”

What is a good trade for Marner?

From the Leafs “win now” perspective it seems unlikely that any trade for Mitch Marner will be focused on futures. Given that the Leafs are a year away from getting nothing but cap space as the return for Mitch Marner, it also seems unlikely that at this point of time the Maple Leafs are thinking that cap space is the best asset to get in return either. That said the Leafs aren’t likely going into this thinking they’ll be swapping one $11M player for another, the player coming back probably won’t score in the 90 points range and they might not be a perennial all-star.
The next question asked is “what are the Maple Leafs’ needs?” The answers may vary from person to person, but most reasonable people would have a top pairing defenceman at the top of their list. After that, there is some variance. The Leafs could benefit from a stellar goaltender. They will need a second-line centre either this season or next and given that they are trading Mitch Marner, a top-six winger could be another need, especially when the return of Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi isn’t guaranteed. Beyond that, the Leafs’ prospect pool could use some help, they could use some cap space to have greater flexibility, though that certainly won’t be what the Leafs are prioritizing in a deal and while the Leafs are listening to what everyone has to offer there is Mitch Marner’s side of this.

The no-movement clause and where Marner might be willing to go

Players with no-movement clauses have been dealt before and no matter how firm the Marner camp is publicly and to insiders about Marner’s intent to stay in Toronto, this isn’t a situation where the player and agent haven’t likely already discussed other cities Marner would want to play in. After all, with one year to go before Marner hits free agency, his agent is going to be traveling the league planting seeds of interest with teams about how Mitch can benefit their team in 2025-26.
The fact that there are teams that Marner might be willing to go to eventually doesn’t guarantee that he’s willing to lift his NMC now and might earnestly want another year in Toronto with his teammates, a chance to turn things around, and doesn’t want a decision on his future rushed. All understandable things and things that he earned through negotiating his last contract, but frustrating nevertheless to an organization that may now be in a place that wants to move on.
When it comes to places that Marner might be willing to waive his NMC to go to it is just wild speculation, but you can narrow it down to a partial list of NHL teams that could be in on Mitch. Teams like the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings always benefit from being fun cities for a rich guy in his 20s to be in. Depending how close being to the arena matters teams like the Islanders, Devils, and Ducks all could be of interest as well.
Other large American city teams like Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago could factor in as well and the Florida teams as well as San Jose have appeal away from the ice if not on it too.
When talking about fun places to live, Vegas and Nashville factor into the conversation, as both have become NHL hot spots, but maybe the importance of being close to home is a thing for Mitch Marner and you can cast a wide net to include Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Detroit in that mix.
At this point I’ve listed the entire Atlantic Division, and it can probably be subtracted from the Leafs perspective as it there would be little desire to send Marner to a rival.
The last team I’ll include in my speculation is Utah. While Utah might not have the draw of the other markets, no one can offer the money that Utah can and there is no doubt their organization could benefit from an established star on their roster to sell hockey to a new market. If getting paid matters, don’t sleep on Utah.
It’s a big leap to guess where Marner is willing to go. For all we know he had a bad time with a street performer in New York and returning reminds him of that moment. Or maybe Mitch has a cousin in Winnipeg that he really wishes he saw more of. All that has been stated is that in the 2024-25 Mitch Marner wants to be a Leaf.

Putting it all together

The Leafs are smart to cast the wide net around the league and see what they can find offer wise. The second they engage the Marner camp in the process and it becomes public that there are only one or two teams in the mix, the offers will dry up. That said, the Leafs are at most only going to be listening to 1/3rd of the league knowing that approaching Marner with a deal to go to teams like St. Louis, Minnesota, or Winnipeg will quickly be rejected.
When you look at what is required logistically for a trade to come to fruition it seems likely most likely that Marner will be a Leaf for the 2024-25 season and with neither side showing much interest in contract extension talks, it also looks like it will be Mitch’s last one in Toronto.

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