Maple Leafs fans split on Marner’s future in Toronto

Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
5 months ago
If there is one thing I’ve learned this week it is that the mindset on how Mitch Marner is perceived by Maple Leafs fans has shifted a lot this season. When I ran a post discussing whether the Leafs are better off trading Marner, keeping him or letting him walk, I was surprised that there is no longer the deafening call to keep the Leafs star right winger. For the most part I had my say on Monday, but I found the responses very interesting and worth exploring as well.
I’ll start by not singling anyone out with this particular response and say that I am well aware that Marner has a no movement clause and understand how they work. When talking about trading Marner it would absolutely need to be done with his consent, to a team he agrees to, and that absolutely makes it harder but not impossible. There also have been plenty of players in the NHL that have been moved despite having these clauses and I believe I’m borrowing this from Jeff Marek, but once you’ve made it clear to a player that they aren’t part of the plans anymore they are open to moving, they just like having some control and say in the matter. If Marner wants to stay, he stays. That much is a given.
As I said, there were a number of responses to the Trade Him, let him walk, or keep him forever post on social media and here were a few comments that certainly seem worth exploring further.
I think a big part of Marner as a force is that he’s not a force in the conventional sense and I know that makes it harder to convince the eyes what a special player he is. He’s not going to drive the net and he’s very much a perimeter player. His passes look effortless for him so often we respond with expecting it of him rather than appreciating that he is the architect of many of the Leafs offensive opportunities. When he makes a highlight reel pass or picks off the puck on the penalty kill for a shorthanded opportunity it gets noticed, but the routine breaking up of plays or cycling the puck well gets overlooked.
As for the hometown thing, I truly feel this is something Leafs fans need to let go of. There is no point to unnecessarily limiting the talent pool and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of GTA players not playing their their best hockey when returning to Toronto and pushing the Leafs over the top.
See: Kessel, Phil
Anyways, I think one of the biggest mistakes a lot of NHL GMs make is they worry about what the player they will trade away will do for their new club rather than purely focus on what their team needs to be closer to a championship. Fans are always going to forever link the players involved in a trade and compare what they did but that’s what fans do, not GMs. That said the Kessel, Kaberle, Bozak, Gunnarsson, Steen, Kadri list makes a strong argument for players to accept a trade because they’ll be picking up their cup ring shortly.
Honestly, this is the closest to where I’m at when looking at Marner. He was in the position to sign last after Matthews and Nylander, and in all likelihood Tavares is going to come in cheaper so bringing him back makes sense too. Marner is the odd man out because the Leafs need to spend elsewhere and I don’t know how any team can justify spending over $22M on two wingers. Centres and defence need to be the priorities and arguably you want to spend money in goal before the wing as well.
There’s a bit of a sunk cost fallacy to having to re-sign a player and having $11M in cap space is an asset on its own. I’m also not sure you can make a strong case for not offering a NMC to a player that is consistently a 90+ point scorer but man would I have hustled if I was Brad Treliving to test the market last June before Marner’s NMC kicked in. If there ever was a bad summer to make a GM change it was last one with the pile of priorities the Leafs had.
The part of me that likes the excitement of completely overhauling a team thinks this could be fun but I also don’t think this stands any chance of happening and don’t think Brad Treliving is the person I’d want leading that change. It’s best to stick with what the Leafs can control and once the Leafs get an understanding of Tavares’ contract demands this summer, we could very well be having a conversation around retaining 50% on his deal to listen on him too.

In summary…

There are a lot of different feelings that go into a discussion around Marner and there are a lot of valid points to be raised. He’s a top talent, that’s undeniable. He’s rubbed some people the wrong but at the same time he’s endeared himself to others, that’s fair too, people are different. There is absolutely a construction of the team element that goes into looking at Marner and in a salary cap league it’s hard to separate the player from the cap hit at times and while Marner is a great player he doesn’t provide surplus value above and beyond his contract.
The Marner debate isn’t going to end anytime soon but feel the perspective on it still needs to be looked at as the rare win/win/win situation. The Leafs win if they trade Marner for assets that allow them to address other needs and likely gain cap space, the Leafs win if they let him walk and eventually gain that cap flexibility after one more season of a star player on their roster, and the Leafs win if they keep one of the top talents in the league albeit likely with an unpalatable contract.
While Leafs fans continue to debate Marner’s future hopefully Brad Treliving and Co. are exploring all the options they have available and putting together their best plan for the Leafs long term.

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