Maple Leafs Rumors & News: Marner, Nylander, Ceci, Babcock & More

All everyone seems able to think about these days are the salary negotiations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and up-until-now unsigned restricted free agent Mitch Marner. This is perhaps rightfully so because, as general manager Kyle Dubas called it himself close to the end of the Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Playoff run, signing Marner is the team’s first priority. To his credit, Dubas has done lots of cap-space clearing to allow the signing to happen.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Gardiner, Kerfoot, Rielly, Schmaltz

In this post, I want to update the Marner situation and report some other news about Maple Leafs players and the organization.

Item One: Mitch Marner Rumor Update

Chris Johnston was interviewed on the Tim & Sid Show on Aug. 15 and shared his take on the Marner negotiations. He believes the Maple Leafs have offered Marner a contract that started in the $10 million or $10.5 million range, but that Marner wants something in the $11 million range. Those high numbers aside, Johnston noted that the two sides are not nearly as far apart as William Nylander and the team were last season during the long hold-out, and, eventually, the last-minute signing.

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Chris Johnston Discusses Marner’s Contract in the second half of this video

Johnston noted that Marner’s contract, whatever it might be, won’t represent anything comparable to other players around the league. In fact, he believes no winger in NHL history will come out of an entry-level contract in the same lucrative way Marner will. However, regardless of the contract, it’s likely that Marner will be in Toronto to start the regular season. If that happens, it falls in line with Dubas’ desire to have Marner remain a Maple Leafs far into the future.

Item Two: William Nylander’s Ready to Dominate

While in Sweden, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston had a chance for a sit-down conversation with William Nylander. According to Johnston, Nylander has had a chance to recharge and put his horrible 2018-19 season behind him. As Johnston reported, “Nylander looked refreshed. He looked like a rockstar, actually, while wearing the same sunglasses he sported in his much-commented-on Instagram post earlier this summer.”

After the Maple Leafs were eliminated from the playoffs last season, Nylander publically admitted that he regretted missing training camp and more than a third of the regular season. He knows it cost him.

As he told Johnston, “There were games where I would play well and nothing would happen and that’s just how the game goes. Learning through that time period has helped me and given me experience and stuff to use for whenever that happens again.”

Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander and Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask watch the puck. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Nylander ended his interview by saying clearly, “Now I’m ready to dominate this year.”

Item Three: Ceci Sued for $8 Million in Damages Caused by a House Fire

In a news item that reminds us that hockey players are, indeed, humans with problems off the ice, last week it was reported that an Ottawa woman suffered second- and third-degree burns when she was “engulfed in flames” at a dinner party hosted by newly-acquired Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci. That woman has brought suit against Ceci and others for more than $8 million in damages. 

The woman apparently suffered burns to 35 percent of her body after an incident on May 9, 2018, that involved an outdoor tabletop fireplace at Ceci’s home. Her statement, filed July 24, was that she was “engulfed in flames” when Ceci’s partner accidentally ignited her with flaming liquid ethanol burner fuel as they were standing near the outdoor fireplace.

Cody Ceci

Former Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Such an accident is sad for everyone, but reminds us that there’s more that goes on in hockey players’ lives than happens on the ice. Here’s hoping the woman who was harmed recovers successfully.

Related: Shattenkirk Would Complete Maple Leafs’ Defence

Item Four: Is Mike Babcock on the Hot Seat?

This past week, The Sporting News speculated that head coach Mike Babcock might be on the hot seat this season if his team doesn’t have a strong Stanley Cup Playoffs during the upcoming 2019-20 season. It seems ironic that Babcock started with the Maple Leafs when the team couldn’t make the playoffs prior to 2015 but since has become an Atlantic Division powerhouse.

During this offseason, the Maple Leafs head coach ignited the ire of hockey commentators and was blamed for poor coaching because he failed to double-shift Auston Matthews during Game 7 of last season’s series loss against the Boston Bruins when the team was down two goals. Instead, he put out fourth-line center Frederik Gauthier.

Babcock’s “problem” is that he has a powerful lineup that includes centers Auston Matthews and John Tavares, winger William Nylander, defenseman Morgan Rielly, and Marner – if he signs. Yet, the Maple Leafs haven’t made a deep playoff run and have been eliminated during the first round in three straight seasons.

Auston Matthews, Mike Babcock
Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews sits on the boards as head coach Mike Babcock gestures to his players on the ice. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

This season, the team’s high-flying offense could be even stronger with the additions of Alex Kerfoot and Jason Spezza. As well, sagacious trading has also brought the team another offensive defenseman in Tyson Barrie. The result is that the Maple Leafs are, yet again, expected to extend their regular-season success far into the post-season. If that doesn’t happen, then it seems that’s on Babcock.

By the way, the other NHL coaches reported to be on the hot seat included Paul Maurice, of the Winnipeg Jets; Travis Green, of the Vancouver Canucks; Rick Tocchet, of the Arizona Coyotes; Bruce Boudreau, of the Minnesota Wild; and John Tortorella, of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

What’s Next?

In my Aug. 15 Maple Leafs post, I reported that both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were seen skating at the San Jose Shark’s facilities. Today a rumor emerged that Thornton was expected to re-sign with the Sharks; however, although Marleau was thought to be hoping for a Sharks contract, the team might not be that interested in having him back – even on the cheap. I will keep my eyes on that news.

Related: Dale Hunter’s Unbreakable Record

It’s hard for me not to root for Marleau who, I believe, basically took one for the team by rescinding the no-movement clause he had in his Maple Leafs contract so the team could sign Marner. Good luck to him.