Mitch Marner doesn’t appear ready to commit to the Toronto Maple Leafs quite yet, which should at least pique the interest of the New York Islanders and other suitors around the NHL.
The 21-year-old, who is quickly developing into one of the best playmaking wingers in the NHL, is just one piece of a talented Maple Leafs core that also features Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and John Tavares. The trio has helped make Toronto one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league and a serious threat in the Eastern Conference.
Only the Tampa Bay Lightning has scored more goals than the Maple Leafs this season while Marner is reaping the benefits. Through 36 games, he has 50 points (12 G, 38 A) while flanking Tavares on Toronto’s first line.
It’s only increasing his value, which will become a major factor following this season as he becomes a restricted free agent.
While he’s met with Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas last week, Marner does not seem ready to sign a contract extension, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston (h/t Josh Beneteau, Sportsnet), as the loaded Leafs approach a crossroad.
Not only does Marner’s contract expire at the end of the year, but so does Matthews. Both will be asking for handsome contracts after Dubas and the Leafs splurged on Tavares this offseason with an $11 million AAV before inking Nylander to an extension that provides a cap hit of $6.9 million each year from 2019-2024.
While I believe the dialogue is positive, I’m still not convinced Mitch Marner wants to do a deal this season,” Johnston said. “I believe he’s still waiting for Auston Matthews but the dialogue has accelerated since Kyle Dubas met the media this week.”
Nick Kypreos, also of Sportsnet, added that Marner might want to see what else is out there as other teams are allowed to submit offer sheets that the Maple Leafs would have a chance at matching before Marner could leave.
“Not only Marner, but many of these pending restricted free agents are certainly intrigued by the offer sheet,” Kypreos said. “There’s a lot of people I’m sure, including Kyle Dubas, who believe that’s a lot of white noise. But behind the scenes, I believe there are multiple teams telling these agents that there’s a distinct possibility we will offer sheet your player.”
It’s early, as the Maple Leafs have until Jul. 1 to secure Marner for the long-term before free agency begins, but if Johnston and Kypreos’ propositions are valid, then there are going to be plenty of teams that will at least contact Marner’s representation.
The Islanders could be a logical aggressor when it comes to possibly pursuing Marner. After losing Tavares, their offense and power play has struggled at times this season. Marner would provide Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders with a dangerous playmaker to pair with reigning Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal. He could also play center, which would give New York plenty of strength down the middle, especially if Brock Nelson is traded or walks in free agency.