The numbers are now in on the Brayden Point, Patrik Laine, and Mikko Rantanen contracts, giving us a more complete picture of how the uniquely star-studded 2019 RFA marketplace shook out this offseason.
Laine breakdown: year 1, $6 M and year 2, $7.5 M
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 27, 2019
Rantanen and COL agree to terms. 6 x $9.25M.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 28, 2019
For Kyle Dubas and the Leafs, it’s not a pretty picture.
We could talk about how Brayden Point — a 40+ goal center — is going to need to make roughly $15 million AAV on his next contract to earn the same as Marner between the years 2019-2025, but the contract that is really telling is Rantanen’s six-year deal signed today in Colorado.
Rantanen, a fellow winger, has one 30+ goal season and two 80+ point seasons to his name over the duration of his entry-level deal. He scored six goals and 14 points in 12 games in the 2019 playoffs. Overall, his ELC production adds up to .91 points per game and .38 goals per game.
Marner has not broken 30 goals, although he has broken 90 points. He scored at a .28 goals per game rate (.10 less than Rantanen) and a .93 points per game rate (.02 more) over his ELC.
With Marner coming in at $10.9 million and Rantanen at $9.25 million, there is no getting around the premium the Leafs paid here.
Apparent in these other RFA contracts is that the GMs in question argued to the agents involved that what the Leafs did with Marner was an exception to the rule — essentially, a crazy outlier — and should be disregarded. These GMs won this argument.
Knowing now that there wasn’t really a tidal shift in how second contracts are negotiated in the NHL, it seems that Dubas did an inadequate job of setting the framework for his negotiation with Marner. Whether that was complicated by a chaotic media environment that appeared — in some corners, at least — to egg on the Marner camp’s delusions that he was very close to Matthews’ company, or by past grievances held by the Marner camp about money and contracts, is tough to say. But the fact is the rest of these GMs managed to establish reasonable parameters based on past comparables, while Dubas wasn’t able to, for whatever reason. This has potential knock-on implications looking ahead to future negotiations with core players in Toronto.
It should’ve been communicated very clearly to Marner’s side from the beginning that a centerman who scored 40+ goals as a rookie, who won the Calder, and who has scored more than anyone else in the game at even strength since breaking the league (Matthews) is a comparable that needs to be thrown out before the discussion even starts.
We can second guess all kinds of things here: Was Dubas firm enough from the start on what the range of acceptable discourse was in this negotiation? Was he too willing to make concessions in fear of the negotiation going cold — in other words, did he compound the mistake he admitted he made with his handling of the Nylander situation out of his fear of the potential impacts on the team’s upcoming season (made worse by the organization’s cap situation)?
Without listening in on the agent-GM phone calls, these are obviously unknowns. But if the sign of a good negotiation is neither side emerging happy, Darren Ferris sounded tickled pink in his post-signing interview.
Dubas could’ve saved a little face maybe by going with a three-year structure that kept the AAV in a more earthly stratosphere, but he wanted term above all else and stuck to his guns there. If the cap grows as much as it reasonably could, and these other RFAs that signed bridge deals (with big final-year salaries) are cashing in huge with way more leverage and a much higher cap ceiling to negotiate with, the Marner number could look… not necessarily like a great deal, in wake of this Rantanen number especially, but maybe like the lesser of two evils.
Of course, should the Leafs win the Cup in the next couple of years, it’s all moot anyway. While Dubas has overpaid his star core forwards and placed himself at something of a competitive disadvantage against the Tampa’s and Colorado’s of the league in doing so, it needs to be kept in its proper perspective, too — they’re such amazing players that if Leafs don’t actually win soon (which they absolutely could), Dubas could certainly move one for significant value and reconfigure his roster as he sees fit.
Make no mistake, this Leafs team has as good of a chance to win the Cup this year as any team in the league with Marner in the fold, and that shouldn’t be lost on anybody. If they don’t hoist the Lord’s Stanley mug during this Cup window, though, we’ve got a pretty good idea of where the postmortem script on Kyle Dubas’ tenure will start.