The Toronto Maple Leafs could have a decision to make on Mitch Marner. He may be close to receiving an offer sheet. If it happens, they should not match.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a primary focus this offseason: it’s to re-sign their restricted free agent, Mitch Marner. The right winger and his team have been said to be far apart in what they each deem to be fair compensation.
This sets up a scenario in which the Toronto Maple Leafs are at risk of losing their star player to an offer sheet. Reports just surfaced that Marner’s agent has been in contact with multiple teams to discuss the prospect of negotiating a compensation package. The latest of these teams is apparently the Columbus Blue Jackets. If Marner and the Blue Jackets come to terms, the Leafs may be best suited to let their winger leave.
Elliotte Friedman, on the 31 Thoughts podcast, dropped the bomb that the Jackets were interested in Marner’s services. They too couldn’t agree on value and term. Apparently, despite the Jackets wanting to acquire the 22-year-old, the team is not willing to draw up an offer for four or five years and has been looking for seven years of service.
This makes sense considering what Columbus would have to provide the Leafs if they were to offer sheet Marner. Presumably, the proposed value would be north of a $10,568,589 AAV. That’s significant because, if true, it would require the Blue Jackets to compensate Toronto in a large way.
This year’s payment for poaching a restricted free agent is as follows:
If Columbus is willing to bid $10.6 million AAV it would net the Buds four first-round draft picks. It’s a steep price to pay so the Jackets must be sure that they get their value’s worth. In this case, it makes sense for Columbus to hold out on making a bid unless they can secure Marner’s rights for seven years. They need the term since they would be sacrificing an influx of top rated talent from the next four drafts.
The Blue Jackets have the room and ability to add Marner. According to CapFriendly, they own $15,765,918 in cap space and hold their own first-round picks. Jarmo Kekäläinen, the team’s general manager, now needs to decide whether it’s worth bullying the Leafs with an offer.
Marner is a special player and an incredible playmaker. He has the talent to make those around him better. If Toronto were to lose him, it would be a void that is difficult to fill. However, if Marner accepts a top tier offer sheet, the Leafs should bid the winger adieu and accept the draft picks.
The Maple Leafs are already up against the cap and have had to shed salary in order to even negotiate with Marner. Without him on the books, they could ink important players, their defensemen.
If Marner walks, the Leafs not only get the compensation package but also something almost as valuable, cap space. That is a luxury that affords them the ability to now negotiate in good faith with Jake Gardiner. It will also give them the flexibility to pay all the defensemen whose contracts expire at the end of the season. If Kyle Dubas want to retain Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie, then there better be room on the payroll for them because they won’t come cheap.
Though it’s a longshot, getting more first-round selections might actually put the Leafs in a position to put an offer sheet to one of the many talented RFAs currently on the market. In this scenario, they could score a desirable player and still be net positive in draft picks.
The Marner saga may play itself out over the next several weeks. If it results in an offer sheet, the front office can celebrate that their jobs all just got a little easier. Marner has been a great Maple Leaf but the return is just too good to pass up.