Fresh off signing a massive new contract extension, Mitch Marner spoke with Darren Dreger at the airport on his way to joining the team for training camp in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
How relieved are you to get this deal done and know that you are not going to have to go through this again for a number of years?
Marner: It’s nice knowing for sure. It’s kind of funny hearing about guys talk about the stress and everything, but until you go through it, you don’t really understand it. I am happy it’s over with and ready to get with the team and get going.
Were you always optimistic a deal would get done or were there points throughout the negotiation where you thought your time as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs might be over?
Marner: No, I felt that something was going to happen and we would get something done. I trusted Darren, my agent, to make sure that he let Kyle know that we are fully, 100% locked in on always trying to be here. It kind of came down to yesterday and a few days ago that we really kind of dialed in and got close and started figuring everything out.
How hard did you push in the last 24-36 hours to make this happen?
Marner: Pretty hard. I knew we were close, so I just wanted to be more a part of it. The last kind of 48 hours or so, I just made sure that I express to Kyle a couple of times about what the feeling was with what we had and what we wanted to do going forward. It is a nice relief. I was walking my dog and I had 13-year-old kids yelling at me from across the park screaming about not signing. That’s the Toronto fan base. It’s great to be a part of for another six years.
There was some negativity directed at you and directed at the process on social media channels. At various points, did it impact you at all? It really seemed to get pointed and heated up this week.
Marner: Yeah. Social media has benefits and it’s good for certain things, but it’s also good for a lot of bad things. People express their hate for people on that. It is something that a lot of athletes go through on social media — the hate. It’s more so just seeing all stuff said about my family that made me disappointed and mad. I expected stuff to come at Darren and myself, but I saw a couple of comments about my father and stuff like that that no one is going to like seeing or reading. It was pretty disappointing to see some of the people express themselves about my family and my family name.
Take us back a little bit. You had a front-row seat with your teammates for the William Nylander saga. Did that experience and what you knew Willy went through factor into your thinking with your own negotiation process?
Marner: I remember when Willy came back he was saying how much of a grind it was mentally and physically not being with the team, especially in his first couple of games back, and how hard it was to get back into game shape and how quickly he had to get back on his feet. Like we were saying earlier, the Toronto fan base is passionate about their team and they’re not afraid to let someone know if it’s not going well.
In the last 48 hours or so, I made sure that Kyle knew that I wanted to be at camp and I wanted to be with my teammates for the start of the season. I think that’s kind of why yesterday something got done.
How excited are you to rejoin your teammates and get back on the ice?
Marner: Super excited. I’m at the airport right now to get on a plane and head over to St. John’s. It should be a lot of fun. I am excited. I keep hearing it is a pretty fun place to be. The fan base looks pretty passionate and pretty excited to have us there. It should be a fun training camp there.
Obviously, there have been a number of changes this offseason. The team looks better, at least on paper. Based on the new personnel and the fact that your deal is behind you, once the team gets healthy, should the Toronto Maple Leafs be considered a top Stanley Cup contender?
Marner: I think so. I mean, we haven’t been happy with ourselves the last few playoffs. But we’ve got a little older and more depth. I think Kyle did what he had to to make our team better. It should be a fun year. We have a lot of skill and talent on this team, but we’ve got to make sure that we come ready to work every day. Nothing is going to be given to us. We’re not a team that is liked a lot by other teams around the league. We’ve got to make sure we come out ready to play every night.