As well, there’s been some speculation about whether the Maple Leafs would name a captain this season or would allow head coach Mike Babcock to continue to be both the coach and de facto team captain. Finally, Auston Matthews fired back at speculation that he would leave Toronto at the end of his current contract.
In this post, I want to bring Maple Leafs fans up-to-date on these news pieces and rumors.
Item One: A Maple Leafs and Marner Update
During a recent session of Sportsnet 960’s Maple Leafs Hot Stove, Elliotte Friedman confirmed that he believed Marner and the Maple Leafs were not close to reaching a contractual agreement, although Marner was offered a three-year contract. Friedman explained that the problem with a three-year contract was that Marner’s side wanted “really big numbers,” which would necessitate the Maple Leafs then having Marner move right into a $10 million qualifying offer and then unrestricted free agency. That sort of contract makes most teams shudder.
However, the Maple Leafs seem more willing than most teams to be a trendsetter when it comes to how the team offers contracts. The five-year contract the organization signed with Matthews allows him to walk into unrestricted free agency in 2024. Most teams would have never negotiated that kind of a contract.
On TSN 1050, Pierre LeBrun explained why teams were upset with the Maple Leafs: “If you want to talk about why teams are mad at Toronto, they hate the five-year precedent. They either want to go long or short, but not five.”
LeBrun, however, didn’t think the Marner vs. the Maple Leafs negotiations were about the term. He noted, “The two sides have talked about all kinds of different years and both sides would do a three-year deal. But we know why they haven’t signed: they can’t agree on money.”
Daren Dreger added his thoughts to this asynchronous conversation. The TSN Hockey Insider reported on Monday that, barring a change in his contract negotiations with the Maple Leafs, he’s convinced Marner will fly to Switzerland later this month to train with the Zurich Lions.
Dreger noted, “If Toronto and the Marner camp can’t come to terms before the start of the regular season or training camp, and training camp as we know is looming this week, then he’s got to decide, is he going over to Europe and he is going to continue to skate in Zurich, Switzerland?”
Dreger noted that “unless something changes and a lot can change very quickly as I keep suggesting here, but unless something changes, I believe his plan is to go to Switzerland maybe the third week of this month.”
Item Two: Frederik Andersen Names Area of Team’s Biggest Growth
Last week Frederik Andersen was asked the question: “In which area do you see the most improvement from September of 2018?” His answer was interesting.
He responded, “Mostly off the ice.” Andersen added, “The leadership of the group that’s been here for a while now has been growing a bit.” Although his answer was vague and could be interpreted a number of different ways, I’m sensing that he means that a core of players is growing that is ready to actively engage in more formal leadership – as in naming a captain.
Item Three: Choices for Captain
Speaking about a team captain, on Sept. 9, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, in a wide-ranging post about a number of different topics, noted some of the Maple Leafs best choices for captain.
As he sees it, now that the that team has shed the last remnants of the old guard (namely, Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner), the team’s core now revolves around one goalie (Andersen), one defenseman (Morgan Rielly), and seven forwards, who is each capable of 20 goals (John Tavares, Matthews, William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Zach Hyman, and Marner if he signs).
Of those choices, Rielly is the
Of these great players, all of them are in their prime and all of them are “devoted to their craft and the organization.” Fox noted that each player goes about his business a little differently, and he noted only one deficiency in the group. Together, they only have one NHL playoff series victory.
Item Four: Matthews Is Upset About the Idea He’ll Move South After His Contract
Matthews let it be known that he was unimpressed by the assertion he’d leave the Maple Leafs to play in the United States as soon as his current five-year contract expired. Last week, former Maple Leafs (and other NHL organizations) executive Brian Burke announced on Sportsnet 590 The FAN that he’d “bet a sizeable amount of money” Matthews would head South after his contract runs out. The reason? He’d pay cheaper taxes in the United States.
“We haven’t even started my first year (on the new contract) and then this?” Matthews retorted last Friday. He chalked it up to not much going on in August so “why not just spark up a controversy?”
Matthews has made no bones about hoping his hometown Arizona Coyotes are successful, so perhaps people add one and one and get three. He also suggested that Burke was engaging in clickbait, noting that, “it creates controversy and will get you a lot of clicks.”
Although Matthews said specifically “it’s not really something that bothers me,” that he took the time to respond suggests the opposite. It either does bother him, or he knows that Maple Leafs fans don’t need more controversy on top of Marner’s challenging holdout.
Matthews’ final comment was on point: “I love playing in Toronto. It’s unbelievable. It’s the best city to play
Memo to Marner
You know your friend is right.