A Way to Sway Public Opinion and Have Marner Remain With the Toronto Maple Leafs

With Marner a year away from unrestricted free agency, he is the easy, convenient choice to move out of Toronto and shake up the core of the Leafs. There is a way, however, to keep the star winger with the Leafs and change the wave of negative energy around him.
Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs
Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

As soon as the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs talk began about the necessity of making a significant change to the roster.

The thinking is that the same core of players with the same postseason results can't be returned for another attempt at playoff success.

Due to completed long-term extensions for Auston Matthews and William Nylander plus dubious interest in an aging John Tavares on the trade market, Mitch Marner has become the popular choice to be moved.

There are multiple problems with trading Marner. The Leafs would be selling low from Marner's uninspiring playoff numbers, both this year and historically, and unlikely to get appropriate value in a trade. Secondly, Marner has a no-movement clause and stated he wants to stay in Toronto.

The noise around Marner has grown louder, from fans and media alike, to see him shipped out of town. His departure is the easiest, most convenient move, but there is a way for Marner to remain a Toronto Maple Leaf and change the increasingly negative perception surrounding him.

A Way For Mitch Marner to Sway Public Opinion and Remain With the Toronto Maple Leafs

Marner is a homegrown product and is passionate about being a Maple Leaf. This, despite at times, having a contentious relationship with the media.

The highly public exchange of words between him, Matthews, and Nylander on the bench during the playoffs didn't help his cause. Put together with his future free agency, only a year away, he has become the easy scapegoat for all that ails the Leafs.

The common belief, admittingly becoming increasingly difficult to defend, is that the Leafs can't keep this core together and devote such a high percentage of their salary cap to a few players. The assumption is Marner will want Nylander's money or more on a possible extension with the Leafs.

Marner plays in all situations and annually leads the Leafs forwards in ice time, but is hindered by his decreased playoff production (although, arguably, this is a coaching decision because Marner has great defensive impacts in the playoffs and still scores about a point-per game). Nylander, however, has increased both his regular season and postseason production in recent seasons.

Many Stars Take Less Money to Help Their Team

In a salary cap world when an organization has many talented players, not everyone can receive top dollar for their services. Someone has to take less money to keep the group together and leave room to help improve the depth of the next tier of players on the roster.

Patrick Mahomes does it now for the Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady did it for years for the New England Patriots. They still earn plenty and help the team at the same time.

It's also not uncommon in the NHL for contending teams to have players take a lesser, but fair amount to assist their team's salary cap situation.

Proven playoff performers and major award-winning players Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point each have an AAV of $9.5 million. Alexander Barkov of the Florida Panthers, a strong two-way player like Marner, earns $10 million annually.

Both the Lightning and the Panthers have the benefit of operating in a tax-free state, however, the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins each have top players on reasonable deals.

Nathan MacKinnon, a perennial major award nominee, has a $12.6 million AAV. His teammate, multiple-time Norris trophy nominee, Cale Makar makes $9.0 million annually. Both are signed well into the future. (All statistics courtesy of capfriendly.com)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are still waiting on one of their star players to "take one for the team" relative to the salary cap.

Mitch Marner can be the first. He could inform his agent, notorious for wanting his players to test free agency, to get an extension done so he can remain in Toronto.

A five-year extension with an AAV of $10-11 million would be a big sacrifice, especially preceding his upcoming free agency. Marner and Nylander would earn similar amounts and send a message of equal importance behind Matthews.

With a projected continual increase in the NHL's salary cap, and Tavares' percentage hit soon to be off the books or signed at a reduced rate, the Leafs would have room left to augment the roster.


There would be no better way for Marner to show his love of being a Maple Leaf and playing for his hometown team. At the same time, he would gain some public favor by being the first Leafs player to take an individual hit for the team's benefit.