What Should the Leafs Do About the Next Marner and Tavares Contracts?

Toronto Maple Leafs v Seattle Kraken
Toronto Maple Leafs v Seattle Kraken / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

It may be a bit early to start thinking about next year when the Toronto Maple Leafs still have another month of regular season games and a (hopefully) long playoff run ahead of them this season.

But Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving has surely spent at least a little bit of time considering what his options may be next season when both Mitch Marner and John Tavares will enter the final season of their contracts.

Let’s start with what will likely be the simpler situation, that of team captain John Tavares.  Tavares will be 34 when his $11M salary cap hit comes off the books (per CapFriendly.com).  Some say he has lost a step this year, but the statistics don't agree. Maybe he has, or maybe he's just been unlucky (he has the lowest on-ice shooting percentage of his career, but his numbers are in line with past seasons and he leads the Leafs in expected-goals percentage).

There will be no need to extend Tavares before next season ends, as Treliving will want to see what he has left in the tank before even considering re-signing the veteran on a much cheaper shorter-term contract. Tavares wants to retire as a Maple Leaf and will likely be open to signing a team-friendly deal to stay in Toronto.

If there is no Stanley Cup parade down Yonge St. this year or next, it will be interesting to see whether Toronto Maple Leafs management will want Tavares back at any price.  The time may be right at that point to cut ties with at least one of the original “Core Four”, name a new captain (which should happen regardless of whether or not Tavares returns) and start reshaping the team’s identity.

Toronto Maple Leafs May Face Tough Decision With Mitch Marner

Continuing on with that line of thinking, will the Leafs want to continue forward with Mitch Marner (again assuming no Cup in the immediate future)?

Marner’s current contract carries a $10.9M cap hit, and whichever team signs him after next season will likely have to cough up between $12-13M per year on a long-term deal.  Given the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs will gain a lot of cap space with the end of Tavares’ contract, and with the annual cap limit going up again, this would seem like a no-brainer.  But is it?

While letting a player of Marner’s talents walk away for nothing is not something to be done without a really good Plan B, there are some intriguing alternatives out there.  Names like Mikko Rantanen, Nik Ehlers and Leon Draisaitl potentially become UFA’s at the same time as Mitch Marner.

Once this summer rolls around, teams can negotiate extensions with players entering the final year of their contract.  It may be in Brad Treliving’s best interest to wait on extending Marner’s contract until it becomes clearer what those other players might do.

There isn’t a lot of risk, at least dollar-wise, in being patient with Marner.  His value (at least in Toronto) is pretty much limited by what Auston Matthews extended for this past summer ($13.25M/yr).  If it becomes evident that other players of similar talent and age to Marner are hesitating to re-sign with their teams, Treliving has to start seriously considering whether he can entice them to come to Toronto.


Sooner or later, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to consider changing up the dynamics of the team without necessarily lessening the overall talent level. The summer of 2025 may be the time for that change.