Marner Contract Dispute Carries Over into Training Camp

Before the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off their training camp, general manager Kyle Dubas addressed the state of the Mitch Marner contract negotiations.

During his conference, Dubas was firm that this would be the only time that he would talk about the negotiations and hopes that a deal will get done before the season starts on Oct. 2. Although he was trying to remain optimistic, everything seems to be up in the air.

Both sides have been in constant talks throughout the offseason trying to reach an agreement. We often thought a deal might happen, but nothing came from these meetings. At this point, the worst is expected. Mitch Marner may miss camp and this could carry over into the regular season, which isn’t ideal for anyone.

Unreasonable Contract Demands

It was previously reported that in June the Maple Leafs offered Marner $11 million per season for seven or eight years. Many felt that number was an over payment for Marner but, apparently, it was not enough. As TSN Bob McKenzie mentioned, the annual average salary is much less than Auston Matthews’ deal.

In addition, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the contract would also pay Marner $1.6 million in bonuses (Schedule B ) that he didn’t receive from his entry-level contract.

This is really troubling. That Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris, is putting him in the same category as Matthews shows how outrageous this process is. As great as Marner is, centremen are who teams build their rosters around and they tend to be more valued. Six of the league’s centres have a cap hit above $10 million, three are $11 million and over. Matthews is in that category along with John Tavares and Connor McDavid. There are only two wingers in the league who earn above $10 million: Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner
Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Mitch Marner. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Marner could argue that he deserves as much as Kane or even Kucherov, as he’s been consistent enough to produce points at a high rate, though both players have more points. It’s debatable whether Marner is comparable to Matthews. In Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, he mentioned that if the Maple Leafs agreed to a three-year deal, Marner’s third year would be a high cap hit, rumoured to be $15 million.

If Marner wants the third year on his deal to be worth $10.5 million or slightly higher, I can understand that and it seems reasonable, but $15 million? No player should be earning more than McDavid, whose AAV is $12.5 million. I can understand why the Maple Leafs would give him $11 million or close to Matthews’ deal, but you can’t get any better than that. The team is doing everything they can to sign Marner, but even that contract doesn’t seem to be enough.

Nylander Saga All Over Again?

There are similarities to last season’s William Nylander negotiations, but Marner’s have been more focused on dollar value while Nylander’s was more about security and term. In addition, Nylander wanted fair value to other comparables like David Pastrnak and Johnny Gaudreau.

Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander
Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander missed extensive game time last year due to a contract negotiation. Could we see the same thing again with Mitch Marner? (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Nylander signed his deal in the dying minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline that would force him to miss the season, and he signed for essentially what was reported from the very beginning, a six-year deal worth $45 million.

It’s possible that for the second year, the Maple Leafs may be without a key piece heading into the season. We all know what happened last year and it’s not an ideal situation. Every missed game is a step backward. This could be the case for Marner if he and his agent holdout into the regular season.

Frustration Is Setting In

Frustration is setting in for everyone; even the panel from TSN’s Overdrive is disappointed in the situation.

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Jeff O’Neill has a point. As infuriating as the situation has been, the Maple Leafs need to put their foot down and say enough is enough. The team has done everything they can to meet Marner’s demands while trying to offer a fair deal that would work for both sides. If his demands are still too high, why would another team want to extend an offer sheet to him? That would be a tall task for any general manager.

Recently, I took part in a Maple Leafs roundtable discussion about setting a deadline for the contract negotiations. With training camp starting, the Maple Leafs should give Marner’s camp an ultimatum: Here are deals that we feel are reasonable, you can sign one of them or risk missing the season.

I understand players wants to earn their value but there comes a time when, if they truly care about their team, they would sign. If not, they should pay the price by losing playing time or possibly miss out on a full season. Any player who doesn’t want their play to be affected would jump in and ask to have something done.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner
Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner continues to be in a contract stalemate. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

As much as many want to blame Marner, it all comes down to his agent. In reality, he has threatened to have his client go to Switzerland, has used offer sheets and has constantly put his client on a pedestal with Matthews, which shows he’s unrealistic and that he’s losing leverage as the start of the season gets closer.

Ferris can play games, but it all works in the Maple Leafs’ favour. Playing in another league, losing money Marner could earn in the NHL or missing a full season, plays into the team’s strategy to get a deal done. No player would want to be affected by any of these factors.

Like Dubas, I remain optimistic that a deal will get done. But if Marner’s demands continue to be way too high, then this could get even uglier. If there is radio silence on Dubas’ end until a deal is signed, then the clock is ticking for the Marner camp. Agree to a deal or miss extensive game time; it’s time to make a decision.