One more day has gone, and still no news of a Mitch Marner signing. It’s no longer surprising that the Toronto Maple Leafs drama has dragged out this long. Until recently, it was fortunate for the team that across town the Kawhi Leonard and Toronto Raptors free agency drama had taken some of the heat away from waiting for Marner to make up his mind to either sign with the Maple Leafs or to move on.
Now that Leonard has signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, perhaps fate has the Maple Leafs in its hands. It would be a big loss for Toronto to lose both Leonard and Marner. We’ll see soon enough.
In the meantime, amid
Item One: Barrie Talks about Kerfoot
New Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie probably knows that he was the main return in the trade for long-time Maple Leafs
Barrie took time to let others knew how he felt about Kerfoot. His message? Wait and see how good this guy is. He’s not a minor piece of the deal.
Specifically, Barrie noted about teammate Kerfoot, “He’s a Harvard grad, great kid, smart kid, and he’s a tremendous playmaker.” He added: “I think you guys are really going to love him. I was really happy to see him come with me. He’s going to be a good player in this league for a lot of years.”
If he’s right, that’s good news for the Maple Leafs who almost immediately signed Kerfoot to a four-year contract at $3.5 million AAV. That signing saves the Maple Leafs a million per season by replacing Kadri with Kerfoot, and his two-season Avalanche history suggests there’s
“He’s got some of the best vision I’ve ever played with,” Barrie also noted about the young
Item Two: Is an Offer Sheet Coming for Marner?
an offer sheet means nothing unless Marner “dares” to sign it. No logic I can
fathom suggests any obvious reason, other than money, that might lure Marner
away from his hometown Maple Leafs. That’s why I suggest “dares,” because
there’s no certainty Dubas would or could break the bank to match any offer
sheet Marner signed.
Although Dubas has always taken the high road during these negotiations by restating that Marner is a great guy, if I were Dubas I might be miffed if Marner put a financial gun to the team’s head by signing an offer sheet. Everyone knows the situation: the Leafs are extremely vulnerable because they lack cap space, and Marner’s signing would force the Leafs to trade other players if they hoped to fit under the salary cap limitations.
As I have regularly noted in previous posts, it would less than good business not to consider the nature of the compensation of four first-round draft picks coming back if Marner signed. He’s a great player, but who knows what young star might be available over the next few years from the NHL Entry Draft? Furthermore, not signing Marner immediately relieves any salary cap pressure the team was facing.
Item Three: Maple Leafs Salary Cap Space Getting Smaller
Speaking of the Maple Leafs opportunities being limited by declining salary-cap space, Dubas noted during an interview on the Tim & Sid Show on July 4, “I’ll try to get as creative as we possibly can to try to get it across the finish line.” That’s really not surprising news. Dubas has no choice.
During this week, the team has almost locked up its remaining salary cap space by signing Kerfoot and new defenseman from the Ottawa Senators Cody Ceci. Currently, the cap space is about $3.77 million plus the $5.3 million that represents Nathan Horton’s contract that can be moved to the long-term injured reserve list. Still, that’s still just over $9 million and probably not enough to sign Marner.
Item Four: Might Gardiner Go to the Canadiens?
Darren Dreger reported on TSN 1050 that he believes the Montreal Canadiens are “keenly interested” in Jake Gardiner and that Marc Bergevin had salary cap space to make such a deal. He believed the Canadiens could use a left-handed defenseman and Gardiner might be high on their list.
Gardiner might seem like a gamble because of last season’s back issues. However, those same back issues create a soft market for Gardiner, which makes him a good risk for a team like the Canadiens.