Chris Tanev connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: Getty Images

Less than 48 hours from the 2019 NHL Draft, the speculation is reaching a fever pitch as the Mitch Marner contract negotiations threaten to go past the draft and Kyle Dubas works to create space under a projected $81.5 million cap ceiling. More in today’s Leafs Links.

Friedman discusses possible Leafs moves on Prime Time Sports (Sportsnet 590)
Elliotte Friedman joined PTS to discuss whether a short-term deal could be a possibility with Mitch Marner and what the Leafs might be up to in the trade market.

On whether a short-term deal is completely out of the question with Marner:

That whole situation is so different than everything else because of the battle of personalities that have gotten involved in it. I’ll tell you this: I’ll bet you if Marner and Toronto talk about a two-year deal or a three-year deal, depending on what the number would be, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Maple Leafs said, “We can do that and extend you later.” I could see Toronto… I mean, it depends on what the number is.

I reported it a while ago that when Matthews was going through his negotiations, at one point they talked about a three-year deal. Apparently, what Matthews’ side argued was is that it is a big risk for us and we want $9 million a year. The Leafs just didn’t want to do it at that number. If the number is nine, I’m not convinced that is going to sort it out. But if they sit there and say, “We’re going to take less term, then we are coming at you again in a couple of years,” I’m sure Toronto would consider it. If you’re a player, you’re taking a risk there, so what is that risk worth to you and to the team?

On whether Jake Gardiner could still return and how the Leafs might open up cap space:

I’d say it is unlikely. The whole thing with this is that so many things are happening with the Maple Leafs that I don’t think we ever expected. The whole Marleau thing and what Toronto is going to have to do to extricate itself from that, now there is the Zaitsev thing and whether they can extricate themselves from that to create some cap room… I believe that they have been making a lot of calls. For example, one thing I have heard about Connor Brown is that the Maple Leafs might be willing to do that for a second round pick just to create the room.

I’ve heard internally there have been some big debates about Kadri. I’ve heard there are people in the organization who feel strongly they need to keep him because they need centers and they’re not as strong without him. I think if Toronto ever wanted to move a Kapanen or a Johnsson, I think they’d have a ton of offers on it. I don’t think they’re necessarily trading Marner — I think it is a big game of chicken right now — but I am sure this weekend they will ask around and say, “If we have to do this, what is the value?”

I think the Zaitsev and Marleau situations have opened up possibilities we didn’t know existed. I think the Maple Leafs are not afraid to be bold, and if they come across something that we might not see, I don’t think they’ll be afraid of going for it if they think it is the right thing.

LeBrun Notebook: Right-handed defensemen on the move (The Athletic)
Pierre LeBrun mentions that the Leafs and Canucks talked about Chris Tanev earlier this season and wonders if a larger package could come together at some point involving Zaitsev and Tanev:

The Leafs and Canucks had a chat about Chris Tanev earlier this season, before the trade deadline. I’m not sure it went very far at the time. But I wonder if Vancouver does decide to get more serious about Nikita Zaitsev if those two names can’t be connected together in a larger package? I think Vancouver is aiming higher for its RHD, perhaps pending UFA Tyler Myers, or maybe a trade for Tyson Barrie? All I know is that Canucks GM Jim Benning is furiously working the phones looking for that on the right side of his defense.

LeBrun also mentions that the price of a Marleau-to-Coyotes move might not be as steep as giving up an Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen:

McKenzie on Maple Leafs off-season, trade targets and more (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie joined First Up to discuss the Maple Leafs’ off-season and which players are most likely to be moved.

They want to try to trade Zaitsev, obviously. They want to oblige his request for a trade. If they don’t get something back, they’re not just going to give him away because he wants to play elsewhere. But he wants to be traded.

Marleau and Brown — they definitely want to try to move the contracts, but the Marleau one is really complicated because he is in full control of the process and it is not going to be easy.

My short answer would be those three guys, in particular, are all going to be traded if they can be traded.
As far as Marner, I don’t think so.

Sparks — I don’t know what the market is for backup goaltenders coming off a not-so-great year.

Kadri — I don’t believe the Leafs really have a strong appetite to trade him. And I’m sure they’re getting lots of calls on him. I have no doubt about it. But they also know that if they trade Kadri for a defenseman, they’ve filled one hole and created another. They don’t have anything in house to fill a third-line center spot for Kadri if he is gone. That is problematic. You never say never because if you could parlay him into some magnificent top-pairing defenseman as a package, you’d certainly have to look at it, but you are not just going to trade him for a top-four defenseman and come to camp at the beginning of the year and say to Mike Babcock, “You’ve got Tavares, Matthews, and Freddy on the fourth line. I don’t know who you are going to put in the third line.” You could put Nylander there, but that’s probably not a preferred choice. They’d prefer to play him on the wing as opposed to center. That is the one where I think there is a much greater hesitation to move [Kadri].

The other guys — Kasperi Kapanen is a guy the Leafs are getting lots of calls on, I’m sure. I don’t think they want to trade him, but I think they’ve got to be open to any and all possibilities. As I said during the Cup Final, Auston Matthews and John Tavares and Mitch Marner — assuming he signs a contract — those are the only four 100% untouchables on the Toronto Maple Leaf roster. Freddy Andersen and William Nylander are on a little sub list that is very close to being untouchable and they’re highly unlikely to be traded unless something was to come in that was just right off the charts.

After that, it’s wide open. They’ve got to make decisions and consider what would be coming in versus what would be going out. The Leafs would contemplate any of those.

Dreger on if Mitch Marner wants respect with a higher salary (TSN1050)
Darren Dreger joined Overdrive to discuss whether Marner’s camp wanting the respect of being right there with Matthews in salary is more important than the money itself.

Maybe there is a small part of that. Maybe that’s not just Mitch but those around Marner to some degree. But I don’t think that is a heavy motivator. I think he just wants to experience and go through what he’s earned. That is the leverage of being a restricted free agent. The only way there is leverage is if you go into the interview period and you are willing to visit with teams and you are willing to attract and potentially sign the offer sheet. Otherwise, it’s just a wasted experience. But before it ever gets to that point, I expect the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to have to table an offer here in the next number of days before June 26th and see where it goes.

I don’t think that Mitch Marner is going to be too bent if the Leafs come in at $11 million or $10.5. He realizes that if the salary cap is below $82 million, three men probably can’t win the Stanley Cup on their own. He can’t control what happened with Matthews, Tavares or Nylander. He can only control his own environment. He wants to be treated fairly. If he’s going to draw a line in the sand at $11.5 million, that might force the Leafs’ hand. But I don’t know if he’s willing to do that.

Marner being asked to take the hit for Matthews, Nylander deals (Sportsnet 590)
Nick Kypreos discussed the dynamic of Marner signing after the Matthews and Nylander second contracts on Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup.

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that at least a Jack Eichel contract is on the table for Mitch Marner. You are in the ballpark between 10 and 11.5 — a difference of a 1.5 million a season. In the big picture, I don’t think we are talking about a ton of money, but it is enough for the Leafs to kind of hold their ground right now. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t hold their ground on William Nylander and they didn’t really hold their ground on the Matthews deal because they only locked up one year of UFA money and made him the second highest-paid player in the league. That is where Mitch is sitting there going, “Why do I have to eat the crap sandwich right now and take a hit for those two signings?” That’s the stalemate right there.

And there is the term. Will they give him five years like they gave Matthews or are they going to force him to take the Jack Eichel eight-year deal? That’s where the standstill really comes in. Mitch knows he can get it anywhere else, but the question is: How does he get there? Does he ask for a trade or does he wait for the offer sheet, or does he have to go into the next season not playing, much like Nylander did? That set another precedent, unfortunately, for the Toronto Maple Leafs. If you don’t get it in September, wait until December 1st. You’ll get it then.

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