Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

In today’s Leafs Links, Bob McKenzie discusses the changing landscape in the NHL with star RFA contracts, Elliotte Friedman provides his latest sense of the Mitch Marner negotiations, and Pierre LeBrun and Nick Kypreos provide updates on the Patrick Marleau trade market (or lack thereof).

Marner, Leafs will likely engage in emotional, tough negotiation (Sportsnet 590)
Elliotte Friedman joined the Jeff Blair show to discuss the latest with the Mitch Marner negotiations.

I think right now it is a bit of a game of chicken, a bit of a game of high-stakes poker. I am a big believer in the “deadlines spur action” saying, and we are getting close to that. I think I said it a few weeks ago: My personal belief is that the Leafs have kind of told Marner that if he wants to get the number I believe he is looking at it, they want him to sign for eight years. I am not sure that Marner wants to do that at this time. I think he wants to see if someone forces Toronto’s hand.

If this isn’t done by the draft weekend, I am sure the Leafs will at least want to see what the value is. It doesn’t mean they are going to do it. I think they are in a bit of a game of chicken right now.

On whether this is a particularly difficult negotiation because of the timing and Marner’s 2018-19 production:

I think it’s because of the personalities involved, too. There is no question. I think there is a lot there. I think there is a lot of emotion. Emotion gets in the way of logic for sure. It happens from time to time. I think the Leafs look at their cap situation and they say, “We kind of have to put on the breaks to some degree.” I think Marner is also a bit of a victim of timing. The BOG meets in Vegas on Wednesday morning. Maybe we get some cap news out of that, but the word is, for a lot of different reasons, what we thought was going to be $83 million might be closer to $82, so that changes the scenario, too.

In all of that, you’ve got an emotional, tough, hard negotiation. That is why we are coming to where we are. I still believe common sense prevails — I really do — but I don’t know if it is going to be easy to get there.

On whether the Leafs could’ve got in on Jacob Trouba:

From what I understand, Winnipeg is on Kadri’s No-Trade list, so they had to have his permission to do it. That’s number one. Number two — basketball and hockey are not the same when it comes to roster construction. One player can so much more of a difference in basketball than hockey, but I wonder if there are many NHL GMs who are going to look at the risk Masai Ujiri took with Leonard and say, “You know what? Maybe that’s something we’ve got to think about.” Trouba, one year away from UFA, would’ve been a risk.

Depending on everything that happens with Toronto’s contracts, I don’t know if they could’ve afforded to sign this guy long term based on what he is going to get. I guess they could’ve done it if they wanted to take a one-year shot, but it’s something I’ll be asking about in the next couple of days for sure.

McKenzie on the salary cap, if Marner contract will set a precedent (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie joined OverDrive to discuss the Mitch Marner negotiations.

There is no news on that and maybe there isn’t going to be for a while now. These players coming out of entry-level, we’ve talked about it before… Patrik Laine is not saying, “Ah well, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler only make $6-8 million bucks. I shouldn’t make more than them. I should make less.” No, he wants $9-10 million bucks.

These guys want to get paid, and there is no mechanism to settle a dispute… There is no external mechanism to settle a dispute between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner other than him withholding his services or the Leafs giving him close to what he wants. That’s it. You’ve got to kind of pick your poison. That’s why Nylander did as well as he did and that’s why Matthews did as well as he did. It’s why this problem is going to repeat itself in a lot of different cities — Colorado with Rantanen, Calgary with Tkachuk, Vancouver with Boeser and Point in Tampa Bay, and McAvoy in Boston, and Werenski in Columbus, and Meier in San Jose, and Laine and Connor in Winnipeg. It is everywhere.

If Marner signs for a lot, they’ll sign, “Yeah, I want what Mitch Marner got.” If Marner signs for a little, they’ll say, “I’m not going to sign for what Mitch Marner did.”  If Mikko Rantanen signs tomorrow for $9 million with the  Colorado Avalanche, you know what Mitch Marner is going to say about that? “Who cares. That’s not my comparable. I choose my comparable. My comparable is Auston Matthews. Now pay me. If you don’t pay me, I’m not showing up to camp.” That’s why it is hard.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: When the NHL put the entry-level system in place and put restrictions on what guys get, when you come out of entry-level, you only get certain rights. One of them is not salary arbitration. That was always initially viewed as a huge win for the owners. They’ve got no rights, basically. It’s withhold services or sign your contract. Everybody assumed that meant that these guys would be in a real tough spot. The exact opposite has happened. These players have become so good, so fast, and meant so much to their teams — all across the NHL. They all want $8, 9, 10, 11 million.

If there was salary arbitration, I think the clubs would be happy. There would be a mechanism to settle it and you would have to throw out comparables. They’d go to arb and point to Mark Stone and Nikita Kucherov. “Tell us why you should get more than $9.5 million.”  He’d go, “Auston Matthews.” And they’d go, “We’ve got so many more comparables at $9.5. That’s what you deserve.”

A lot of people would’ve assumed that salary arb is a tool players view as an asset and the owners view as a liability more often than not. And yet it turned out to be exactly the opposite.

LeBrun on latest with Marleau trade rumours (TSN)
Pierre LeBrun discusses the latest on the Patrick Marleau trade rumours with the LA Kings.

My tweet was that the two teams have talked but I find it hard to believe that they can figure this out. That’s exactly what has happened. For the Kings to do that deal, they need a real sweetener and they need the Leafs to take a burdensome contract off their hands. As the two teams went back and forth, I just don’t think they were able to figure this out. Just too complicated. That thing is off the tracks and I don’t think he is going to LA. Now, that could change if the Leafs, in a week or two, call and have the sweetener or make it obvious as to why LA or Rob Blake would want to do this.

Kypreos: The latest on the Leafs and Mitch-Marner (Sportsnet 590)
Nick Kypreos joined PTS to discuss what he’s heard recently about the state of the Marner negotiations.

The sundae — the chocolate fudge, the whipped cream  — was Jeff Skinner’s deal in Buffalo. When Marner looks at Karlsson, that’s just cherry on top. It doesn’t just start with a one — it starts with 11. That’s why we heard Kyle Dubas in his exit meeting talk about not making the same mistake of waiting like he did with William Nylander. Now we are going into the draft weekend and we hear nothing but crickets. You know that they are at a stalemate here. Offers were made. Offers were not accepted. Now they are at a cross-road on what their next move is. I would assume that the multiple offers they have already given to Marner will go up between now and possibly the weekend. If it doesn’t, you start going into July 1st.

On the likelihood of a Marner offer sheet and the status of Patrick Marleau trade talks:

You talk to people on the Marner side and they think it’s a real possibility. You talk to people on the Leafs’ side and it’s, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” It’s calling-your-bluff time, maybe. I think it is a little too early to be calling-your-bluff time. I think the Leafs will counter again and go a little deeper, but after that, they’ve got some really hard decisions.

The biggest issue or the bigger issue, besides getting Marner to like a number that you are presenting, is still trying to find a way to lose Patrick Marleau’s contract and Zaitsev’s and I’ve heard that is not going very well in terms of what teams want to hear from the Leafs to start getting serious about taking those contracts on. They’re going to have to dish out. They’re going to have to do something big time. The bar was set when Bryan Bickell from Chicago’s $4+ million needed to be moved and it cost them a top prospect in Teravainen. You start talking about those guys, then you start talking about Johnsson and Kapanen. That’s where the conversations go. Vancouver would love to take Kapanen off their hands. Same goes for anyone interested in Marleau’s deal.

Right now,  I can tell you that Marleau wants to go back to San Jose. His family has moved back there and that’s his wishlist. Right now, he’s not interested in going anywhere else but San Jose. Right now, my understanding is San Jose is not sure yet. Doug Wilson is in a position to say, “Yeah, maybe I’m interested, but not at the price of the last year of the contract.” I would probably believe that a third team would need to get involved — a third team that needs to get to the floor. The Leafs would have to entice that team to take that contract and have to give up something. If they were to buy out Marleau, then San Jose could come in and sign him at a number they are satisfied with.

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