Mitch Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris, joined Leafs Lunch on Friday to discuss ongoing negotiations for his client’s second contract in Toronto and Marner’s love for the organization.
Mitch Marner said himself before the season, “I’m pretty comfortable taking on a leadership role. I feel like I can be one of those guys now in the room.” How have you seen the evolution of your client?
Ferris: He’s always been a great team guy. A lot of credit goes to Mitch’s family, too. They’ve brought him up real well. The kid is a real good human being. I’m sure it comes across with some of the charity stuff he’s done this summer. His dad and him worked tirelessly on it and it was a great success. He’s that kind of guy.
In the room, with the players, he is well-liked. He gets along with everybody. For me — I’m biased, but — he is an obvious choice, in my opinion, to be one of the captains on the team. Again, that is up to the team. I have no say in that. But if it were me, he’d be my choice.
One of the pressing issues on the Leafs’ fans minds, as much as there is anticipation coming into this season, there is a lot of anxiety about how we are going to get these incredible long-term talents signed to long-term deals and how we are going to make it work under the salary cap. Can you bring us up to date on how you are seeing the negotiations, if there have been any between the club and your client, Mitch Marner?
Ferris: Kyle and Brandon Pridham are working hard at it. They are taking their time. Their pressing one right now is Nylander and I can’t speak to that. That’s between the Nylander camp and the Leafs.
In our case, it’s just time. We’ve had some discussions. We’ve had some very productive discussions so far. If nothing is done by the start of the season, then we’ll wait until next summer and we’ll get back at it again. I’m sure Kyle will be of the same opinion and so will the whole Leafs organization. They understand they have time and so do we. There is no pressing issue for Mitch to sign right now. I guess the order of the day is really for them to address what is pressing for them at this time.
Just to be clear, you’re saying that if it’s not done by next Wednesday, then your preference would be to wait until after the season?
Ferris: That would be my preference. I haven’t stated it to them, but it is my preference and Mitch’s — to concentrate on the year at hand and work towards winning a Cup this year possibly. If things can be worked out, then it’s great. You get a deal done. But there is time. There is still another year to go. I’m sure, as much as they’d like to get it done now, if it’s not the right deal, then we’ll have to wait. That, as you said, is not unusual.
We saw last year Jack Eichel sign on the eve of the new season, one year out from his entry-level deal expiring. On the other hand, other RFAs like Gaudreau and Pastrnak have gone right through the wire and then eventually signed. You’ll often hear, “Time is on your side when you have a special client,” especially someone like Mitch Marner. Where do you stand on that philosophy given that you do have 12 months still to play with?
Ferris: I think time benefits the player. It has always benefitted the player. If it gives them time, then it changes the landscape sometimes. Sometimes your better deal is done when you are doing it a bit earlier because the peer group just improves. The cap goes up, the peer group changes, and different statistics come in. All of a sudden, you are dealing with a different group of comparables in a negotiation. Sometimes it benefits — most times, it does benefit — the player.
Do you watch what is going on with the Leafs and Kyle Dubas and William Nylander? Do you watch that closely? Is it something that you are like, “I guess that is what we need to expect now when it is our turn?” How do you approach dealing with the Nylander situation?
Ferris: I can’t speak to the Nylander situation, but I just know in our current situation, it is something where I think we are having productive discussions. If it works, it works. Nylander has no bearing for me as far as Mitch’s situation. They’re two different matters that I’m sure will be addressed when the time is right.
We’ve seen some top players — a guy like Connor McDavid — go into negotiations and give a little bit of money back to his team from what he might have been able to take off the table for the good of the group. As an agent, how do you balance that mentality of a salary cap sport where players want to be good teammates and want to contribute to Stanley Cup contenders, but also, on your end, want to maximize their dollars?
Ferris: They do that a lot. Mitch has done that already. Mitch did that in his first contract, even against my wishes. He wanted to help the team out the year he signed his entry-level and he did. It happens and players do it. It works out as long as it is fair and equitable for both. Nobody wants to be treated unfairly. I think that is exactly what will happen here — it’ll be fair and equitable for both.
I think a deal will be done. I think Kyle is doing a good job in Toronto, and Pridham and company. They will do what is right for the Leafs and the player. I think it is a good environment there.
Can you give us some insight into how much Mitch Marner loves playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Ferris: Oh, I mean, he grew up here. You see some of the clips of him as a kid, even. They have been fans — the family has been fans — since Mitch started playing hockey and even well before. His father was a big Doug Gilmour fan. He loves playing here. He enjoys it. He enjoys the boys in the room and everything that comes along with it. This year, even in light of last year when he had mono and was playing on the fourth line there and all that he went through, he still did tremendously well. This year is going to be interesting to see where he gets a chance to play. I still think there is a lot more to see going forward.
What do you see so far in that partnership with John Tavares? A great new opportunity for Mitch.
Ferris: Looks great. It’s going to take some time here. In Montreal, they started off a little shaky there and in that first game where they are all together. That is exhibition. Exhibition is normally a little sloppy and so forth, but I like what I see going forward. They’ve got a good group. I think it’ll be an exciting year there, I’ll tell you that. Even my mother, who never watched hockey, is watching hockey now. When I’m there, she’s giving me hell about Mitch not getting enough ice time.