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

Perhaps the contract extension of Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, who signed on for six more years (through the 2024-25 season), is the biggest recent news surrounding the club this week. It suggests that the Shana-Plan continues.

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And, so far so good. Since Shanahan assumed the role of team president in April 2014, the Leafs fell to the bottom of the standings but now have emerged. This resurgence has seen the team make the playoffs the last three seasons.

Certainly, re-signing Mitch Marner is part of that plan. Good luck with that.

Maple Leafs & Marner’s Camp Talking

John Shannon reported that Brendan Shanahan and Kyle Dubas talked to Mitch Marner‘s agent Darren Ferris yesterday.

The Maple Leafs believe getting Marner re-signed before he reaches restricted free agency in July is their top priority. It appears the two sides are in the early stages of negotiations, but Shanahan reported a positive meeting with Marner’s agent on Tuesday.

Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews
(John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

“I have a lot of respect for Darren Ferris,” Shanahan explained. “Obviously, our admiration for Mitch and how he plays the game and how he evolved this year and how he developed, rounded out his game and added, not even just his offensive creativity and prowess but penalty killing and just his overall game has improved so much, so it was a positive meeting.”

“Beyond that, you’re not going to hear anything from Kyle and I or Mitch’s camp. … There’s no point in playing this out through the press.”

After leading Toronto in points for the second straight season, it’s likely that a contract for Marner might come close to matching teammates John Tavares and Auston Matthews. No one on the outside knows, but we expect Ferris is pushing for a salary close to that for his client.

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On one hand, Shanahan is pleased to have salary cap issues because it means the team is likely contending. In an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Prime Time Sports, he noted, “When we’re not dealing with cap issues we’re probably rebuilding.”

Item Two: Jesper Lindgren Has Been a Hidden Prospect

Kyle Cushman, who covers the Maple Leafs for Editor in Leaf, noted that one of the least well-known Maple Leafs prospects is Jesper Lindgren. He believes that Lindgren’s potential has been hidden in Finnish Liiga.

Lindgren was a third-round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the first draft where Dubas was calling the shots. In fact, Lindgren was one of Dubas’s first signings to the Toronto Maple Leafs roster. Lindgren signed the same day Pierre Engvall, Par Lindholm, and Igor Ozhiganov signed.

Because there were so many defensemen with the Toronto Marlies, Lindgren was loaned back to HPK (Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho) for the 2018-19 season. This past season in Finland, he played top-four minutes and became a legitimate top defender in Finland. He also helped his fifth-seeded HPK team win the Liiga playoffs.

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Lindgren is a possession-type defenseman. When he’s on the ice, his team controls the puck and takes more shots than their opponents by a wide margin. If he becomes a possession defenseman for the Maple Leafs, that would be a huge addition to the team.

Lindgren will play with the Toronto Marlies for the remainder of the Calder Cup playoffs and probably will join the Marlies full-time for the 2019-20 season.

Item Three: What Players Might Be Mitch Marner Comparables?

Hockey pundit Bob McKenzie joined the OverDrive panel to discuss the contract status of Mitch Marner. He noted that the real comparable players to Marner (who had 26 goals, 68 assists, and 94 points in 82 games) are Brayden Point (41 goals, 51 assists, 92 points in 79 games) of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mikko Rantanen (31 goals, 56 assists, 87 points in 74 games) of the Colorado Avalanche.

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In theory, McKenzie suggests, Marner should be paid similarly to those two players because they all have about the same number of points. At the same time, NHL tradition is to pay centers more than wingers, and Marner is a winger. However, McKenzie points out, every market is unique.

McKenzie noted that no other NHL wingers are making as much as Marner is likely asking. Nikita Kucherov (41 goals, 87 assists, and 128 points in 82 games) and Patrick Kane (44 goals, 66 assists, and 110 points in 81 games) are both making less money and scoring more points. But, as McKenzie notes, Marner isn’t comparing himself to players around the league, he’s comparing himself to his Maple Leafs teammates.

Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner
Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

If Dubas wants to keep Marner’s salary competitive, he must take a stand and be willing to tell Marner that he can get kind of money, but it won’t be with the Maple Leafs.

However, McKenzie made a key point about playing in Toronto. It wasn’t as much about growing up here, but about the core strength of the team. Although they were beaten in seven games by the Boston Bruins, they were ahead 3-2 in the series and almost won. The core players in Toronto are as strong as anywhere in the NHL. That seems persuasive to me, but only Marner and his agent can weigh that decision.

Item Five: The Worst Trade in Maple Leafs History?

In his Between the Posts, Howard Berger believes the worst trade in Maple Leafs history was when John Ferguson Jr. swapped goalies with the Boston Bruins. The Maple Leafs traded Tuukka Rask (chosen by Toronto at No. 21 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft) for Andrew Raycroft (Calder Trophy winner in 2003-04).

Andrew Raycroft Bruins
Andrew Raycroft (Photo: Jouko Laru)

Today, Rask is one win away from the Stanley Cup Final. For two seasons in a row, he’s beaten Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen in Game 7 of the first round. In fact, as Berger notes, it’s likely Rask will win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. Had the Maple Leafs not made that horrendous trade and Rask remained with the team, they would have been set in goal for more than a decade.

By the way, Berger believes Andersen plays well for the team, until it matters during the playoffs. He’s come to doubt the Maple Leafs can win it all with Andersen as the team’s goalie.

What’s Next?

The Marlies play the Charlotte Checkers on Friday, May 17. That series will be fun to follow if you’re a Maple Leafs fan. So many Marlies have a chance to make the Maple Leafs roster next season. I’ll be interested in how the defense plays.

Good luck Marlies.