NHL Rumor Mill – September 28, 2018
Latest on William Nylander, Mitch Marner and Jake Gardiner in an all-Leafs NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran was asked if it was permissible for the agent for Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander to contact rival NHL clubs to encourage them to send his client an offer sheet. He confirms Nylander’s agent is allowed to do this with his client’s blessing but it would be a pointless endeavor.
McGran believes the Leafs will match the offer, which would discourage a rival general manager from pitching the offer in the first place. Nylander would also have to sign the offer sheet, which would signal to fans and teammates that’s he’s unhappy in Toronto and wants to leave.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s why offer sheets are so rare. In every case but one, the offer was matched. Ryan O’Reilly was the last player to sign an offer sheet back in 2013 when he was with the Colorado Avalanche. As McGran points out, a rival GM isn’t going to waste his time when he knows the Leafs will match. Nylander also probably isn’t inclined to go that route. He wants to stay with the Leafs but also wants what he considers fair compensation. If he changes teams, it’ll be via trade, not an offer sheet.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell suggests the Leafs could find it difficult re-signing winger Mitch Marner next season if he continues exceeding expectations. In that case, he feels $10 million annually won’t be enough. Like Nylander, Marner won’t have arbitration rights next summer and his only leverage will be to withhold his services. That could make Marner a tempting offer sheet target, “if for no other reason than to force the Leafs to match the offer, which would put them in a further bind with the salary cap.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs currently have over $48 million invested in 11 players. Assuming Nylander is re-signed for $6 million annually, they’ll have over $54 million tied up in 12 players. Now let’s assume Auston Matthews is re-signed next summer for $11 million annually. That’s $65 million for 13 players. They’ll have enough space to handle $11 million for Marner but now that cap hit’s up to $76 million for 14 players. If the cap rises to $84 million for 2019-20, that won’t leave much for the Leafs to re-sign or replace defensemen Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey and still have enough to ice a competitive roster.
If the Marner camp proves open to an offer sheet, things could get sticky for Toronto. But as I noted earlier, offer sheets are scarcer than hen’s teeth. If Marner’s not interested in one, the Leafs won’t have to worry about another team trying to sign him away.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: cites NHL insider Darren Dreger telling Toronto’s TSN 1050 he thinks Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner could command something in the high $6 million-to-low $7 million range on his next contract. Dreger bases that assumption on Gardiner having another season comparable to last year’s 52-point performance. Slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, his current annual cap hit is $4.05 million. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some will scoff at Dreger’s assessment but never underestimate the ability of NHL general managers to overpay for free-agent talent. He noted Kevin Shattenkirk got $6.65-million per season for four years, which could be the target for the Gardiner camp.