Mitch Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris, joined First Up with Michael Landsberg and Carlo Colaiacovo on Monday to discuss the negotiation process, the public perceptions of the negotiation, the offer sheets Marner received, and how the final contract came together.

Coles Notes:

  • Ferris calls the vilification of Paul Marner tantamount to a “bullying campaign.”
  • He agrees Tavares and Matthews’ contract figures were a definite factor — “Mitch wanted to be treated fairly.”
  • Ferris claims were two offer sheets presented and one club gave Kyle Dubas advanced notice. Mitch didn’t want to sign either and remained committed to staying in Toronto.
  • Ferris believes more offer sheets were coming in-season if a deal wasn’t finalized in time.
  • Ferris claims no formal 7×11 offer was rejected in June.

This deal, it got done on Friday. Was there a face to face? Were Mitch and Kyle face to face in a room?

Ferris: Yeah, there was a point where that happened and the three of us met together. Once we got closer to the goal of what everybody wanted…. I mean, the goal all along was to get him done by training camp. Kyle worked tirelessly with me and some of my colleagues. We were working night and day coming up with scenarios.

That’s why I laughed when I heard some of the reports from some people about what was going on — that their source told them this. Everybody, as you see today, was wrong. It was unfortunate that the way the events were going during the summer and I had to keep Mitch at bay there, too, so that he understood not to be on social media and not to listen to some of these people who think they’re experts. It was a rough going.

As we got closer the day — to the numbers that we were comfortable with — Mitch and Kyle did have a meeting along with myself and subsequently, Kyle and I were able to fine-tune everything and get the deal done.

What was the most challenging part throughout this process?

Ferris: Really, the white noise that was out there. The challenging part was to keep everybody calm and really understood the process it takes to complete a deal like this. It is not as simple as, “here is your number and we’re done.” It’s not that simple. There are other factors that come into it as far as the term and what is like for that particular player.

I don’t think anyone at all accurately reported what was going on — especially the vilification of Mitch’s father was just shameful. It’s unfortunate. It almost became like a bullying campaign against him. The characterization of him is nowhere near that.

There was a lot of talk about comparisons within the Leafs — that John Tavares was making $11 million, Auston Matthews was making $11.6 million. Was that a big factor for you guys as you looked to measure Mitch against them?

Ferris: Absolutely. That is one of the factors that you bring into it. There is a comparison of players on his team with his teammates. When you go to work and you do the amount of work that someone else does in your company, you feel you should be compensated as fairly as them. I’m sure it is hard for people to relate considering the dollars we talk about here, but remember, players’ careers are short. They’re not long careers.

In Mitch’s case, he just wanted to be treated fairly. We completed a great contract for him and for the Leafs that he can remain a Leaf and not entertain any of these offer sheets that have been proposed and move on.

If Matthews’ $11.6 million number had been lower, would you have asked for a lower amount or settled for a lower amount?

Ferris: I can’t speculate on what would’ve happened. Mitch’s numbers have been decided based on his statistics and it’s not just Matthews. There are other players out there. I mean, Matthews received a really good contract and Kyle did a good job on that one as well. I think our problem today is the salary cap. It’s not the salary of the players right now. It is the salary cap itself — the system. I don’t think it works. It’s affecting a lot of players. That’s why we are in the situation we are in.

Do you think escrow has a big part to play in that?

Ferris: Yes, it does. That’s a big factor. Hopefully, they work through that this time around and there is no lockout, but definitely that is a factor. At the same time, the cap situation — that whole system is not working.

In what way?

Ferris: It’s stopping teams from being competitive as far as signing and keeping some of their players long term. Sometimes some of these negotiations get contentious and then say you end up settling on a deal for three years and the kid ends up leaving after that. You wonder why. Well, he has this bitterness in his mouth that, “Hey, you treated me this way when I should’ve been treated this way.” The marketplace wouldn’t allow it, at least within that team.

How does Mitch feel about the Maple Leafs?

Ferris: Oh, thrilled. I am not putting it on the team. This is a normal process. People that are knowledgeable about negotiations and situations you go through and how complex it is to create one of these contracts understands the reason for the time and why some things can be delayed. As I said, people that were grandstanding and were given a platform to criticize Mitch and his family… Mitch and I can take it, but to go after his family was shameful.

I think that they don’t understand. Maybe they were bullied in school, I don’t know. Now they’ve got this platform and they want to attack someone else’s character. I don’t know what it was, but I’ll tell you it is unfortunate. We should be celebrating Mitch, not attacking him as his family. We should be celebrating our athletes along with their team and pushing to have both to have a successful future.

You mentioned offer sheets he received. Was the goal in mind always to be a Maple Leaf?

Ferris: Absolutely. I’ll tell you there were two presented to him in the summer — two opportunities, which he declined. He told me, “Darren, I don’t want to sign. I want to be a Leaf.” We declined both of those opportunities. I know Kyle was aware of one of them. The team had actually had told him that they had made the overture to Mitch. There was a very, very strong likelihood there were more being presented once the season started and the cap number gets set and makes it more difficult for a team to match.

His goal always was to be a Leaf. That was the conclusion. The Leaf organization worked hard, especially Kyle working tireless hours and he and I going back and forth with the ups and downs of normal negotiations. We finally got the deal done in a timely fashion where he could get to camp, and that is what Mitch wanted.

On the final day, was there a give and take on both sides?

Ferris: Absolutely. There is a common ground that we came to. We threw a homage to Dougie there with the 93 at the end of his number. His bonus is also 93% of his salary.

You keep saying people don’t understand the work that goes into it. There are two elements here: How much you are going to get paid and how many years. What else is there?

Ferris: There is the term and the effect of the term. You might want to do a shorter term. Basically, everyone lays out everything on the team, and over time, you are going to discuss with your client what best fits him. Does this term or does this term? We go back and forth with different numbers and different situations as far as how it will affect the player and the team. The team has their own dynamics which they have to deal with, and you are trying to find a happy medium so both are content and can work together to achieve that. It’s not just cut and dry. Plus, they’ve got other players they’re dealing with throughout this process. It’s not that simple, especially with a player of Mitch’s ilk.

There was a proposed offer of 11×7 at some point in June. Was there a possibility a deal could’ve done sooner?

Ferris: Here is the thing: Everyone assumes about a proposed offer. We discussed numbers. Those are numbers we all looked at. There were different numbers tabled over different timespans. There was nothing set in stone like, “Here is what we are going to do and this is where we are at.” It is a proposal for a discussion to talk around a number. Nobody declined an offer. Nobody an accepted one. At those points, we were just discussing the deal. From there, that is how we got to this point.

Everybody went on their rants. As I said, they are uninformed, inexperienced with contract negotiations, or were given a forum to spew all these fabrications and lies. It was unfortunate. It is unfortunate those people are given a platform. On social media today, you can hide behind it. You don’t need to be in that person’s face to do it.

Is it fair to say it paid off for Mitch not signing a contract last summer, and in retrospect, it probably would’ve been good for the Leafs to sign him last summer?

Ferris: Of course, the market changes. I always think the longer the player waits, the more of an advantage it is to the player than the team.

Only if he has a good year, though.

Ferris: Absolutely. That is always a possibility.

What is the furthest you were apart in dollars per season?

Ferris: There was never a real crazy gap. It was always more a discussion about term at the very beginning and term was what we were all deciding on and what was best in term. In dollars, we were always in the ballpark. It was always a figure around what we got in that area. We never really went outside that. It was just a matter more of discussing term and what the Leafs thought they wanted and what we wanted. It took a lot.

Believe me, this is a large commitment. As a player, you are taking your time to make that decision. You can’t just arbitrarily jump at the first thing that comes out. You want to take the time and think through it carefully. As I said, I would go back to Mitch and go back to Kyle. As I said, we came to a resolution on a great contract for the player and for the team.

Is it true that UFC 242 will feature Kyle Dubas vs. Paul Marner?

Ferris: Listen, they get along well. I know that Kyle really enjoys the time he gets to spend with him. There is a misconception there. He is a very, very good man. He is a good father. I think people have characterized him and vilified him unfairly and shame on them. Shame on them. I don’t know how they could do it and bring up lies and spew all this garbage that was out there. It’s unbelievable, but that’s our world now with social media.

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