Mitch Marner remains unsigned as we roll through September. Most of the talk over the summer has been about how much money a contract for Marner would command. The Toronto Maple Leafs only have about $10.5 million in cap space, but that’s close to what the Marner camp likely wants. There is a fit somewhere in there. While money is an issue, just as important is the term of a potential contract. Here’s a look at the potential terms of a Mitch Marner deal and why they fit or don’t fit for the player or the team.
Mitch Marner Term Important To Maple Leafs
There are a few reasons a one-year deal is unlikely. The Maple Leafs won’t want to offer a high dollar amount on a one-year deal and players take a risk signing for just one year. If Marner signs for one year and is injured in that year, it could put his future earnings at major risk.
It’s possible a one-year deal is signed just to get Marner under contract for this season with the hope that there is more cap room to sign him to a longer deal next summer. That’s a long shot though.
A two-year deal has similar negatives to a one-year deal. Marner is taking some risk. Very short deals are typically going to be worth less. The Maple Leafs may want something like $7 or $8 million a season on a one or two-year deal. At least that’s been the mindset of general managers in years past. That mindset could be changing.
If a player signs a two-year deal, the team must offer the same amount, at least, in a qualifying offer to retain the RFA rights once that contract ends. For a team unsure of a player, signing him to a short-term deal at a lower rate protects the team. If the player doesn’t perform in those two years the team isn’t locked into a long term deal they don’t want. If the team doesn’t qualify the player, they risk losing him. However, that may be the preferable option.
That’s not really a concern with Marner. If the Maple Leafs sign him to a two year $9.5 million dollar deal, they retain his RFA rights when the contract ends in two years by offering him a qualifying offer of $9.5 million. There isn’t much risk for the team. Marner is going to be worth at least $9.5 million in two years.
Recent reports have surfaced that Marner and the Maple Leafs may be working towards a three-year deal worth $9.5 million a year. A three-year deal hits a sweet spot of sorts. It’s long enough that Marner is guaranteed to make close to $30 million as an NHL player over the next three years. That’s life-changing money for him and his family.
A three-year contract will end with Marner still being an RFA and the salary cap may be considerably higher by then allowing Marner a sizeable raise. A three-year deal is not ideal for either side perhaps, but it’s agreeable to both. The question that remains is just how much should a three-year deal be worth.
A four-year deal still keeps Marner as an RFA. In a lot of ways, it’s just as good as a three-year deal. For the Maple Leafs, anything between one to four years will work. A short-term deal just pushes their Marner dilemma to another off-season, although one where they have more cap space. As far as retaining Marner’s rights, there’s no difference between a one-year deal and a four-year deal.
The longer the deal, the more money Marner will want. At four years, Marner may be asking for something north of $10 million and a deal in that range puts the Maple Leafs uncomfortably close to the cap limit.
The dollar amount on a five-year deal may not go up considerably. A five-year deal walks Marner to unrestricted free agency. That has value. Maybe Marner would accept a five-year deal at $9.5 million, but the Maple Leafs really don’t want to sign Marner to a five-year deal.
At five years, not only will they not be buying a single year of Marner’s UFA years, but Auston Matthews and William Nylander both have contracts that expire in five years. That would be a very difficult summer if Marner signs for five years as well.
Six or Seven Years
The Maple Leafs would love to sign Marner to six years or more. Six isn’t as good as seven or eight, but it would at least buy one UFA year. The problem with a deal this long is Marner would want more than the Maple Leafs can afford. Kyle Dubas might be happy signing Marnner to $11 million a year in general. The cap is always going up, and could take a huge jump in three years when the NHL’s current deal with NBC ends. Marner at $11 million a year is manageable long term if the cap keeps increasing, but it’s too much for this year, and maybe next year when both Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie need new contracts.
Marner will balk at six or seven-year offers, even at $11 million. He’s led the team in scoring for two straight years. If that continues, and the cap does jump in 2022, he could be leaving money on the table. If he signs for three years, when he’s negotiating his next contract, he could be asking for something around $14 million. Signing for six or seven years at even $11 million now won’t allow Marner that chance to take advantage of a higher cap.
Everything said about six and seven-year deals apply to an eight-year deal. The potential appeal of an eight-year deal is just the total dollar amount would be the highest of any potential contract. An eight-year deal at $11.5 million a year, which the Leafs would be fine with on it’s own, totals $92 million. That’s a lot of money.
What Will Mitch Marner Sign For
If both sides were good with three years at $9.5 a season, the deal would likely be signed already. The term is likely to be three years. It keeps Mitch Marner an RFA at the end of the deal, and 2022 is when the salary cap may jump due to a new TV deal. Marner is likely licking his chops at that.
The remaining debate is probably over dollars rather than term. Marner may be holding out for $10 million and if he is, Dubas won’t let him sit out training camp. A three-year, $30 million dollar deal would satisfy everyone.
TORONTO, ON – APRIL 21: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates with the puck against the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on April 21, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)