This offseason has seen a number of key changes on the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. Among the new players is elite defenseman Tyson Barrie and although he hasn’t yet suited up with the team, there are rumors emerging about his desire for a new contract. Second, restricted free agent (RFA) Mitch Marner remains unsigned and a number of thoughts are emerging about what might happen. Finally, William Nylander has made what seems like a minor change – to his uniform number.
In this post, I explore these rumors, speculations, and news.
Item One: Tyson Barrie Wants Big Money in His Next Contract
Barrie is a new-to-the-team defenseman who solves a lot of the Maple Leafs’ problems in the defensive end. However, having a player of his caliber carries with it more financial issues for the team. There’s a rumor that Barrie is seeking an $8 million contract when he signs his next deal. Currently, his salary cap hit is $5.5 million.
I have three immediate thoughts about this rumor. First, if either Barrie or his team is releasing this news, what a really odd time to do so when the Marner drama continues to bring stress to the organization. Second, he’s probably worth close to that amount in today’s NHL. Such salary demands, although the timing seems wrong, aren’t that unreasonable given his value to the team and his scoring history. Third, given the team’s salary structure, Barrie is probably excited to have been traded to the Maple Leafs.
Obviously, like many NHL elite players these days, it seems Barrie has already started to posture and negotiate. There’s no way his old team, the Colorado Avalanche, would have ever paid him $8 million AAV. In addition, last season he was the seventh highest-scoring defenseman in the NHL with 59 points. Chances are his scoring (especially his assists) will go up this season playing with the high-scoring forwards the Maple Leafs can ice.
Barrie’s likely to get a high number of secondary assists simply by moving the puck up the ice or using the occasional stretch pass. If he can expand his assist totals next season with the Maple Leafs, no doubt he’d warrant a raise with the team.
It will be a fun season to see how the revamped and stronger defensive group will impact team success. I will also be interested to see who will be able to move up from the Toronto Marlies to the big team.
Item Two: A Possible Mitch Marner Trade Scenario?
Lucas Bolt, who covers the Maple Leafs for Editor in Leaf, wrote an interesting piece about the Marner negotiations. He suggests that Marner’s team seems to be at a standstill in its negotiations with the Maple Leafs. Perhaps, as good a player as Marner is, there will be no alternative other than to trade him. If so, Bolt suggests that the Carolina Hurricanes as a good trade partner.
Like many of us, Bolt suggests that Marner is his favorite player. However, he also suggests that if Marner wants to leave Toronto for more money, “so be it.” If such a trade were to happen, he suggests that general manager Kyle Dubas would want someone to replace Marner on John Tavares’ wing and would like to have the trade partner include both a prospect and a first-round draft pick. He notes that the Hurricanes have players who fit that bill.
Here’s a possible trade as he sees it. Marner would be moved to Carolina for the Hurricanes Teuvo Teravainen, Jake Bean, and a first rounder.
The downside of such a trade is that the Maple Leafs would lose a home-grown star with the potential to become a Hall of Fame player for a team he grew up loving. The upside is that the trade recognizes that business is business and, if the high salary Marner is seeking hurts the overall team structure, there’s no point keeping Marner.
Carolina’s a good fit because they should be happy to play Marner with Sebastien Aho. The Maple Leafs would be happy to get Teravainen, who’s
Jake Bean is a 6-foot-1, puck-moving left-handed defenseman. At only 20 years old, he would help flesh out the team’s young defensive core with Travis Dermott, and probably Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren if they move up from the Marlies.
Furthermore, if the Maple Leafs could get a first-round pick from the Hurricanes as well, on paper that trade seems to be good for the team. However, it might not be a good one for Marner in the long run. One thing few people talk about is that the young RFA makes additional off-ice, non-contract revenue simply by being in Toronto. Marner has been in a number of commercials, most of which would be gone if he played with another team.
Item Three: William Nylander Changes His Number to #88
This week, Nylander completed a small make-over with the Maple Leafs. He’s changed his jersey number from the #29 he’s been wearing to the #88 he wore playing with Team Sweden. In a nice gesture, for fans who currently own jerseys with his #29 on them, the young forward will cover costs for any fans who choose to change the jersey number.
Nylander fans can take their jerseys to any Real Sports Toronto store until Dec. 15 to make the change. This is Nylander’s second jersey change as a Maple Leafs player. As a rookie, he wore #39; but, he switched to #29 the next season.
About the only pushback he’s received has been from fans who feel Nylander has trespassed on the memory of Hall of Fame player Eric Lindros also wore #88 throughout his career and during an abbreviated 33-game career with the Maple Leafs (11 goals, 11 assists, 22 points). Although the Philadelphia Flyers have retired Lindros’ #88 jersey, the Maple Leafs have not.
Given Nylander’s success wearing #88 with Team Sweden during the 2019 World Championships, where he led all players with 18 points (five goals, 13 points) in 8 games, I can see why he would wish to make the change.
As Nylander suggested, “What’s old is new again.”
As Maple Leafs fans await the settlement of negotiations between Marner and Dubas, the team continues to be built. Is a trade likely? Probably not and Marner will stay with the team, but it’s a bit of a crazy off-season and who knows how much frustration on either side it would take to spur some action.