ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The first thought for anyone with a vested stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs should be ‘Thank God.’
Thank God Mitch Marner’s contract stalemate ended before it went right off the rails. Thank God the 22-year-old winger will be able to join his teammates with plenty of time still left in training camp. Thank God the front office made good on Kyle Dubas’s promise to keep all of the young stars in the fold.
Elsewhere, there will be plenty of barely-muffled complaints.
Not only does Marner’s market-resetting $65.358-million, six-year extension instantly complicate life for other teams still negotiating with restricted free agents (hello Mikko Rantanen!), it marks the third straight major contract where Toronto stretched itself to the limit to get things done.
They’ve done it because they believe a core built around Marner, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly is good enough to compete for the Stanley Cup. The Leafs made the final push to sign Marner on Friday because this is clearly an all-or-nothing season and it didn’t serve anyone’s interests to have the standoff drag on any longer.
Toronto now carries three of the seven highest cap hits in the league — with Matthews (No. 3, $11.634M), Tavares (No. 5, $11M) and Marner (No. 7, $10.893M) — and it has to hope the incoming U.S. television deals and the arrival of an expansion franchise in Seattle help fuel more league-wide growth in the years to come.
If that happens and young stars continue breaking the bank on their second contracts, these deals may come to look less onerous from a cap perspective.
The compromise in the Marner contract came on the length …read more