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Tanev is a risky option, a Marner contract offer, and a Kadri return : Leaflets

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
22 days ago
I love Day Two of the NHL Draft. Not so much watching it as appreciating the news that comes out of it. The fact that there will be six new Leafs prospects (give or take) by the time it closes is something to look forward to. Although they are late round selections, the Maple Leafs have shown an ability to find a few players worth keeping an eye on in the later rounds over the past decade. I couldn’t tell you who the Leafs should take but I’ll put money on that player who somehow slide to the fourth round that you want the Leafs to take a chance on, they probably aren’t going to take him anyway.
Here are a few other thoughts…

Chris Tanev isn’t the bargain option that was promised

Way back when the Chris Tanev to Toronto talk started it always came with the premise that the Leafs would somehow wind-up getting Tanev at a discount to play for his local team. This was always pretty naive and seems to be even more so now that teams like his incumbent club the Dallas Stars are clearing cap room to keep him, and the Vancouver Canucks seem to be itching for a reunion. The risks that come with acquiring Chris Tanev remain the same, but the mitigation steps are eroding and now increasing term on the soon-to-be 35-year-old is one of the suggestions out there.
Tanev still checks all of the boxes of being the closest thing to a right shot Jake Muzzin clone, but the age and injury history are a big part of the similarities too. If the Maple Leafs attempt to address their blueline needs going with a high risk, short term solution that could bite them on the cap shouldn’t be where they place their focus at the start of free agency. Chris Tanev is not John Klingberg but still feels like starting with a Plan B or C option instead of facing the challenge of improving the Leafs’ blueline head on.

What should Marner’s offer from the Maple Leafs look like?

On Friday morning Elliotte Friedman stated that he believes the Maple Leafs will put forth an initial offer to Mitch Marner for a contract extension. We’ll get to the debate about whether or not the Leafs should be doing this at all in a minute, but for now focus on what that offer should look like.
It’s hard not to see William Nylander’s contract as the template for any Mitch Marner offer. Marner might make a case for doing more although he’s done less than Nylander in recent seasons. He also benefits from further escalations in the salary cap to make his case, but the Petterson and Pastrnak contracts also support that the $12M barrier isn’t something the Leafs should break on Marner. Mitch has been great for the Maple Leafs (we can discuss playoffs separately another time) but he is already being paid like someone who is great and the case for a substantial raise isn’t really there.
There are going to be two contracts coming up that the Marner camp will be watching incredibly closely and those are if there are extensions for Leon Draisaitl and Mikko Rantanen, both favourable comparisons for Marner, but in reality Marner hasn’t matched the outputs or the playoff success of either of these players. The case for paying him like them is spotty, but so was paying William Nylander more than David Pastrnak.
As for whether or not the Leafs should be offering Mitch a contract at all, well…, I’ll start by saying that the contract shouldn’t be a barrier. This might be me looking at the combination of Tavares and Marner since their contracts are up at the same time but no matter what it is difficult to see them combining for a $22M AAV cap hit. There will be savings with Tavares so Marner’s deal won’t be as bad. Even at $13M, Marner wouldn’t be as much of a cap burden as he was near $11M when he signed his last deal.
If there is a case for not offering Marner a contract at all it is probably based in one of two things, you are simply done with Mitch as a player (this seems to be the a common internet belief but unlikely one shared by the Maple Leafs) or you believe the Maple Leafs need to be built differently (admittedly I fall into this category, but recognize the Maple Leafs want to have their cake and eat it too, hanging onto a 90 point winger while building a better team around the core.)
Whether you want Marner to continue on as a Leaf or not, putting an offer to him makes sense. He’s not going to sign it anyway. Nothing about past contract negotiations says it will be that easy but the Leafs need to check that box so they can establish communications, get a baseline understanding of how the Marner camp will react and potentially determine whether there is any hope at all of finding middle ground, and Brad Treliving can go back to the rest of the Leafs and say an effort was made, Marner wasn’t simply pushed to the curb.
In short, the Leafs will likely offer a contract but it changes absolutely nothing.

Craig Button’s Kadri take

Often I find my opinions are not aligned with those of Craig Button. This is not one of those times and think that he’s spot on with saying the Leafs should look at a way of bringing Kadri back into the mix. I would say that Calgary would have reluctance to hear from Brad Treliving asking them to take a haircut on a bad deal that was actually signed by Brad Treliving, but nevertheless it doesn’t hurt to ask.
The other thing when it comes to Craig Button is that even if you don’t agree with his opinion there is little doubt that he is piped into the Calgary organization, as a former executive, as a resident of the city, and largely due to the fact that his brother is their Director of Amateur Scouting. Craig isn’t throwing out ideas that wouldn’t be appreciated by the Flames brass and in that sense I’d say it’s at least worth exploring the idea of Kadri returning to Toronto.
First off, the Leafs need a second line centre. Tavares moving to the wing or down to the third line is in their best interest. Toronto needs centre depth and if they were to explore it in free agency the price for players like Sean Monahan, Chandler Stephenson, etc. is only going to be slightly less than Kadri’s current deal. With 75 points and 29 goals last season, Kadri is very much a fit while bringing his edge and agitation into the mix. If the Leafs are moving on from one or both of Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi, Kadri is a great way of replacing that. Kadri is also a playmaker which gives the Leafs a good option for either Nylander or Tavares on his wing.
Of course, Kadri isn’t without his red flags too. He’ll be 34 at the start of the season and his $7M AAV contract has five years left on it. The good news of that is it could presumably make it so it would cost less to acquire Nazem, but with a no movement clause to start that will turn into a 13 team no trade list after two seasons, there is no guarantee that Kadri is someone Toronto could part with again. (Though the salary cap is going up so maybe we’ll begin to talk about these impacts less and less.)
As Kadri ages his playing style is one that should translate to moving to the wing or moving down in the lineup.
I fully admit my bias about Kadri and acknowledge I am overlooking the severity of the contract hurdles if his game really falls off but remain convinced this is an interesting option for the Maple Leafs to explore, maybe after there is a better understanding of the what the centre market looks like.
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