Report: At last, progress in Mitch Marner contract talks

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

A glimmer of hope: Chris Johnston is reporting progress in the Mitch Marner contract negotiation as of Friday morning.

This stalemate was always going to come down to Marner’s appetite to actually miss camp time and potentially sit out of regular season hockey games. That these reports are surfacing as the team steps on the ice out for training camp on-ice sessions in Newfoundland is perhaps a sign Marner doesn’t have the stomach for enduring this whole saga — which has come to a head over the past few days after firm details surrounding the Leafs‘ offers leaked in the media — much longer. There is no doubt that after the last few days of reports — which have mentioned 7×11 and 3×8.8 offers from the Leafs — Marner’s side is now losing the PR battle handily if it wasn’t already.

The other element at play here is that there is a finite deadline with the pressures of the Leafs’ cap situation. There is a plausible scenario in which the Leafs simply couldn’t afford to sign Marner if this goes past a certain point in the season; the exact point only cap manager Brandon Pridham really knows, but it could be as soon as a few weeks into October. If Marner wants the type of money the Leafs appear to be willing to offer him — and to be made whole on his entry-level bonuses he missed out on, as reported — he can’t have his cake and eat it, too. The Leafs simply cannot wait until well after the season starts and still sign him to an exorbitant sum of money while also making him whole this season.

Pierre LeBrun’s proposed deal above would keep Marner’s next contract staggered a year away from Nylander and Matthews’ third deals. At $10.5 million AAV, it’s certainly rich, but after a few years  — should the cap rise in line with current expectations — it might show as reasonable value for Leafs. It would mean from Marner’s side of things that he’ll earn $10.5 million AAV while selling just two UFA seasons before negotiating his third contract at age 28 — a huge win for his side by any measure. Given Tavares signed away seven UFA years at $11 million AAV just a year ago under a barely-lower cap ceiling, the fact that Marner would make essentially Tavares money over the next seven years (accounting for Marner’s raise on his new deal in Year 7) is quite a score given Tavares is a proven top-five center in the league.

Hopefully, this morning’s reports are an indication common sense and cooler heads are prevailing here.

Elliotte Friedman: Three and six-year deals being discussed

The latest from Friedman on Sportsnet 590:

I think in the aftermath of the last couple of days when everything kind of got out about the offers in June and the counteroffer, I think the two sides have been going at it again trying to see if they can get something done. I hear they’re looking at two different terms most seriously: three and six. I am not sure that that is going to be what it turns out — either one — but I heard those are the ones being most looked at.

It is tough to tell how optimistic we should be. I think we’ve learned that this is a lot of peaks and valleys. It is basically like they’re riding the Yukon Striker. There are ups and downs and you go through tunnels and you hope you come out alive on the other side. I think they’re trying right now and we’ll see if they can get anywhere.

On what the AAV might be on a six-year deal:

It’s got to be below $11 million. I think if it was in the $11 mill range, it would be a done deal already.