Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marner, Zaitsev, Hurricanes Trade, Marleau

Without official news, rumors tend to build and swirl. Commentators, and I am no different, are looking and listening for any report that might indicate what is happening with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In this news and rumors post, here are some of the reports I have been reading.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Shanahan, Marner, Lindgren, Worst Trade

Item One: Jeff Skinner’s Deal Impacts Mitch Marner

When agents and general managers negotiate, a tactic used by both sides is to compare one player’s record and salary against another’s. For a contract to be deemed “fair”, players from different teams should receive similar salaries for similar output.

In other words, if one player who scores 35 goals and 40 assists signs for $5 million per season, and you are representing a player with exactly the same record, you would seek a salary in a similar range. That’s why Jeff Skinner’s signing with the Buffalo Sabres suddenly matters to Mitch Marner’s agent.

Buffalo Sabres Jeff Skinner
Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner’s new contract could affect Mitch Marner’s. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Darren Ferris, who represents Marner, and Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas have been talking contract for weeks. However, there’s been scant news other than that they have been regularly meeting. Dubas has already stated that signing Marner is his priority, and it seems reasonable to assume he would want to ink the team’s young RFA sooner rather than later for two reasons.

First, whatever Marner signs for impacts the team’s ability to sign other contracts, most notably RFAs Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen. Second, Dubas knows that if a new deal takes too long, Marner can talk to other clubs during a five-day negotiating window just prior to July 1. Most commentators see that as problematic.

Related: Maple Leafs Need to Trade for an Enforcer to Save Kadri

Already Marner’s agents can use the contracts of teammates Auston Matthews ($11.634 million per season) and John Tavares ($11 million per season) as a comparison. Marner led the team in scoring for the second straight season. However, the Sabres’ recent signing of Jeff Skinner to an eight-year, $72 million ($9 million per season) contract suddenly became a second comparison, which might help Marner’s agent seek a higher salary.

Specifically, Skinner had a great season and became a leader on the Sabres. He scored a career-high 40 goals and 63 points. However, even his best season did not compare to Marner’s record. Marner’s last two seasons both topped 63 points (69 points in 2017-18 and 94 points in 2018-19). In addition, both are wingers, which means the argument that only centers get that much money cannot be used against Marner.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner
Signing Mitch Marner is Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas’ off-season priority. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

That Skinner, with 63 points, would become the fifth-highest paid winger in the NHL (after Patrick Kane’s $10.5 million, Alex Ovechkin’s $9.538 million, Nikita Kucherov’s $9.5 million and Mark Stone’s $9.5 million), certainly places Marner into that group. Thus, when a comparison is made between what Marner’s agent wants and what Skinner signed for, Dubas will have to offer somewhere around $10 million per season to keep the team’s leading scorer in Toronto. In fact, at 22 years of age, it seems likely Marner will become the highest-paid winger in the NHL.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Growlers, Marner, Zaitsev, Bettle

Item Two: Interest in Nikita Zaitsev?

When Nikita Zaitsev first asked to be traded out of Toronto, the thought was that the Maple Leafs were in a bind and might have trouble moving the unhappy defenseman. In fact, most commentators believed the team might have to add a draft pick or a prospect just to move him.

Toronto Maple Leafs Frederik Andersen Nikita Zaitsev Washington Capitals Nicklas Backstrom
Toronto Maple Leafs Nikita Zaitsev has requested a trade. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

However, recent rumors suggest those initial thoughts were off base. Specifically, on Vancouver radio late last week, the Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta suggested that, because of strong interest around the NHL in Zaitsev, adding trade value likely isn’t necessary.

Related: The Maple Leafs Should Sign Jason Spezza

As well, Eliotte Friedman reported that he believed the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils, and Tampa Bay Lightning might have interest in Zaitsev. Right-shot defensemen are tough to find and, at a salary of $4.5 million per season for five years, a team knows exactly what the cost will be. Zaitsev, although he isn’t much of an offensive threat, is a good skater who can play on the penalty kill.

Item Three: Are the Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes Trading?

Pierre Lebrun suggested that the Carolina Hurricanes are “keeping tabs” on what happens with the Maple Leafs. Because the Hurricanes are deep on defense and the Maple Leafs are deep at forward, it makes sense the two teams would explore trade possibilities. Those possibilities will become more likely if Dubas signs Marner to a really rich contract. If so, the team might be forced to move either Kapanen or Johnsson (with or without Zaitsev) in return for one of the Hurricanes’ defensemen (Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, or Dougie Hamilton).

Curtis McElhinney Dougie Hamilton Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes Dougie Hamilton could be a trade option. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

Because all three are right-handed, they would be excellent additions to the Maple Leafs roster. Pesce, at 24 years of age, is signed to a cap-friendly contract and would be a strong addition. Faulk, at 27 years of age, is also an excellent player. Hamilton, at 25 years of age, is considered one of the best defensemen in the NHL (perhaps after a healthy Erik Karlsson). Any of those three players would be a great addition to the Maple Leafs.

Item Four: Patrick Marleau Is Selling His Toronto Home

To fuel the rumors that Patrick Marleau will be dealt to a team further west, his home has been listed on the Toronto real estate market. It must be quite a house because it’s listed at just under $12 million. What we know is that the house, which backs onto a ravine, has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, eight fireplaces, a 13-car garage, a hockey room, a pool, and an outdoor hockey rink.

The Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported several days ago that the family will be moving back to San Jose and that Marleau would be willing to be traded to a team closer to their home there.