Ben Hutton linked to the Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

Kyle Dubas says the Leafs would like to bring back Ron Hainsey but might be priced out of the market with the Mitch Marner situation looming, while Elliotte Friedman wonders about a bridge solution for Marner and mentions that the Leafs will be in on LHD Ben Hutton when unrestricted free agency opens on Monday.

Friedman: Would a two-year bridge deal make sense for Marner? (Sportsnet)
Elliotte Friedman provided his latest on the Marner saga on Sportsnet’s Starting Lineup and what the Leafs might do on defense.

On whether the Marner situation is holding up business for the Leafs, whether Marner might take a meeting while in New York, and whether a two-year bridge deal could be on the table:

I do think there are teams that are held up by this and I think Toronto is one of them. I think Winnipeg is another. Winnipeg is looking at a situation with Laine and Connor and it absolutely affects the business they want to do. I don’t know if we are going to get a quick resolution to this. One of the things we are definitely having right now is that, unless an offer sheet does come next week, I think there is a real concern about nobody wanting to be first. If you’re first, in a lot of ways, you set the market and then you take all the heat. Someone is going to bitch about it. Nobody likes to deal with that. Someone might surprise us, but a number of these are probably going to go into September. That is part of the problem, too.

Marner is supposed to be in New York this weekend for Matt Martin’s wedding. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a meeting there, more with the Islanders than anybody else. The one thing that is going on… I think a lot of teams are calling these RFAs just to find out, “What do you want? What is the contract you’re looking for?” There could be a situation where one of these results in a trade — a sign and trade with a team instead of an offer sheet, and you have to know what you are dealing with. I wouldn’t be surprised if he potentially met with a team like the Islanders. They’ve got a lot of cap room and they’ve got to clear out some things. I am not saying anything has happened between them, but it wouldn’t stun me if he took a meeting.

I’m not sure Marner wants to sign for term right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs are saying to him. “We’ll give you two years at a record number for two years — maybe $8 million a year.” The cap is going to go up in two years, so we can punt this until then. I wouldn’t be surprised if that would be on there on the table as a solution. I just don’t know how Marner feels about that.

On whether any of the big RFA negotiations stretch past the start of the season:

I do think we will get there with someone this year.

The lesson the Nylander thing told us, for both player and team, is that missing that long is bad. I think it could go one of two ways. I think it’ll add more pressure, if these things go into September, for players and teams to sort it out before the season starts because of the way Nylander’s year went.

I had a couple teams who were in this position — it’s easy to say this in June as opposed to December — who said they would be more inclined to let the player sit out the year rather than sign him on December 1st after they saw the way that went.

Certainly what happened with him and his season and the Leafs this year, don’t think that went unnoticed.

On the Jake Gardiner situation:

There haven’t been a ton of rumours on Gardiner, but one of the thoughts — and there is still four days before this, so it can change — but someone thought he might be slow playing it a bit and kind of seeing who swings and misses early and gets a little bit desperate. I think that could be a potentially very smart play for them. We know Karlsson is off the board. We know Edler is off the board. We know PK has been dealt. We think Tyler Myers is off the board to Vancouver. There is going to be somebody who sits there and says, “We need a D and the chairs are rapidly starting to fill up.”

We’ve heard Montreal’s name with him. We’ve heard Minnesota’s name with him. I have a feeling there is something we are missing on him in terms of who is interested. I know the dream is that Toronto can work it out. I am not expecting it, but I am sure it is kind of like that hope that it can happen. But I get the sense there is something we’re missing on Gardiner because it’s been too quiet and I refuse to believe it is that quiet.

On what the Leafs might do to address their defense:

I think the Marner situation is holding up a lot of their other ideas. I would suspect they have a few balls in the air with trade. Before Ben Hutton was not qualified in Vancouver, I know the Leafs were in on that and had interest on him. They talked to Vancouver and couldn’t work anything out. He will be a free agent on Monday and I think the Maple Leafs will be in there but there will be a lot of interest.

There are probably some other trade targets around the league — that’s how it most likely is going to come, by trade. I think they have to see how much cap room they’ve got once they figure out Marner.

Seravalli: Signing Kapanen, Johnsson gives Leafs clear cap outlook (TSN)
Frank Seravalli offered his thoughts on where the Leafs stand cap-wise with Johnsson and Kapanen locked in.

I think it was important because the Toronto Maple Leafs were concerned about the potential offer sheet not necessarily for Mitch Marner but for both Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Let’s say a team wanted to poach one of those players and offer $5 or 6 million a year, which is clear the Leafs aren’t in a position to pay, and the Leafs are in a position where they are potentially in a position of losing one or both of those players for a first and a third round pick based on the offer sheet compensation guide. That is not an ideal situation. Now the Leafs have locked these guys up in the right order because now they know exactly what they have left to spend.

The Toronto Maple Leafs now have a really clear picture on what they can and can’t do when it comes to Mitch Marner. They probably had a good idea before but now this spells out the need to continue to clear out salary cap space by moving Nikita Zaitsev. He is the cleanest cut option for a guy that has requested a trade to get him off the books.

Connor Brown — it further spells the need as a $2.1 million luxury on the fourth line to move on from him as well. At the end of the day, there are limited dollars to go around. If you pencil Marner in at $10 million and take Nathan Horton off the cap, they’re under, but still, that is a lot of work left to do to fill out the remainder of the roster. It further underlines the need to move those guys.

Player agent Pat Morris on offer sheets (TSN1050)
This was an interesting interview with agent Pat Morris on First Up with Michael and Carlo on how the offer sheet process works.

On whether an agent would receive an offer sheet and go back to the incumbent team with the terms as leverage:

Sure, you could always do that in isolation. I am not necessarily talking about Mitch Marner and I don’t want to give Darren Ferris any direction in life. He’ll do whatever he wants to do with his client and the client will do whatever he wants. But if you have an RFA, usually these things are done surreptitiously and you deal with it quietly. The offer sheet comes in an email and the team receiving the offer has to deal with it.

I don’t think the team that is brave enough to submit an offer sheet wants you using that offer sheet to try to get re-signed with your own team. You’re doing it because you want to play for the other team, or you’re using them, and that’s probably not a good tactic you should take through your life if you want to be around and be respected in the business a long time.

When your client instructs you to say, “Yeah, entertain an offer sheet,” that is the big statement. That is a bold statement. There are players running around saying, “I only want to play for team X,” so is that player entertaining offer sheets? It is always our obligation to take whatever is brought forward.

There are two different tactics: Is someone looking for an offer sheet for his client or is someone answering offer sheet questions from another team? There is a difference — a subtle difference — of tactics. You do what your client wants. You sit down and go through the options to say, “Hey, this is part of the CBA. I can go and try to drum up an offer sheet for you. Do you want me to do that?” Lots of times, when players are happy in a location, they’ll say, “No, continue to negotiation in good faith with the team. I am not interested in an offer sheet.”

And that has happened to us. With Ryan O’Reilly, the situation became acrimonious, he requested a trade, and he wasn’t necessarily unhappy about going to another team. He ended up back in Colorado and he was happy about that, too, but he was certainly willing to go to Calgary. That is a big part. The player has to be actively involved. As an agent, you can’t be going behind your client’s back. Clients make recommendations and we get instructions.

On whether a team ever negotiates with the agent on an offer sheet, there is no agreement, and no one ever finds out:

Yeah. Even on the O’Reilly situation, we had three different teams approach us and we talked long and hard. The player talked long with the manager and ownership back in January after the lockout. I would never identify those teams — they know who they are — but we had offer sheet discussions with teams in the month of January before it turned really ugly in February and the offer sheet came through.

There is a lot of backroom chatter some times, and in the end, it is a very big thing to do. Are you worry about retribution? There was retribution the day of the Backes offer sheet in 2008 between St. Louis and Vancouver. Vancouver offer sheeted Backes and Vancouver matched it in a day, and a day later, they offer sheeted Steve Bernier. There is a certain vindictiveness on that, and you’ve got to be very careful. You keep those things quiet. You don’t necessarily need to expose those discussions.

On whether an agent uses the threat of an offer sheet as leverage for more money in negotiations:

You can’t stop teams that are competitive teams from coming to you and saying, “We want to offer sheet your client.” It’s your obligation to report that back to your client. If the client instructs you to say, “I want that known to the team I am trying to sign with,” you communicate that with the incumbent team to say, “Three teams want to offer sheet my client, and we better get this done or he’s put a time limit on it. If we are not signed by July 1st, we might have to change our thought process and go down the path of actually negotiating with a team.” The incumbent team can just sit there and say, “Okay, if someone makes an offer sheet, we’ll deal with it based on what the terms are.” But the player has got to sign it. That is the hard part.

Nylander believes Marner situation will “work out” (TSN)
At the NHLPA Golf Classic, William Nylander met with the media and discussed Marner’s situation and preparation for next season.

It is always a tough process, but in the end, it will work out for both sides… It is just the beginning of summer and there is a lot more time to go, so there are no worries.

Kyle Dubas speaks on free agency, Marner update