The use of comparables will be a constant in contract negotiations with restricted and unrestricted free agents this summer. There are some who believe that the talented this year’s class of RFA’s which includes Mikko Rantanen, Brayden Point, Sebastian Aho, Matthew Tkachuk and Brock Boeser are waiting for Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner to set the market before they get serious about negotiating with their clubs.
Marner’s representative Darren Ferris and Leafs GM Kyle Dubas have been discussing a new deal since Toronto was eliminated from the playoffs in April, but the only news on either front came a few weeks ago when TSN’s Darren Dreger mentioned that the Leafs leading scorer could take advantage of the five-day negotiating window before July 1 to talk to other clubs about potential offer sheets or to put pressure on Toronto to up their offer to something in the same neighborhood as Auston Matthews five-year deal for $11.634 Million per season or the $11 Million AAV of linemate John Tavares.
The leverage for the Marner camp may have increased on Friday, with the news that the Buffalo Sabres signed winger Jeff Skinner to an eight-year, $72 Million contract. Skinner scored a career-high 40 goals last season in his last year before becoming an unrestricted free agent and used that and a market short on goal scoring to get the fifth-highest winger salary in the NHL behind Patrick Kane ($10.5 Million), Alex Ovechkin ($9.538 Million), Nikita Kucherov and Mark Stone ($9.5 Million).
Although the two players are not at the same stage in their careers (Skinner is five years older) and Marner is more of a playmaker than a sniper (who set a career mark with 26 goals), the Sabres winger’s top point production is 63 points (in 2011, 2017 and 2019), while the Leafs forward scored 69 points two years ago and 94 points last season.
It is becoming more and more apparent as July 1 approaches that Dubas will have to offer over $10 Million on a five-year deal to keep Marner in the fold and possibly make the 22-year-old the highest paid winger in the NHL.
The 27-year-old defenseman requested a trade late last month and with five years left at $4.5 Million per season, it was thought that Toronto might have to add a draft pick or prospect in any deal to make it more enticing, but Pagnotta does not think that scenario will play out, since there has been strong interest in Zaitsev around the league.
*******If you are interested in sponsorship or advertising your business in the Greater Toronto / Southern Ontario area on this column, please send a message for more information by clicking on the “Contact” button at the top of the page.*******