NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2019
Could Mitch Marner sign an offer sheet? Are the Canucks considering a swap of Loui Eriksson to Edmonton for Milan Lucic? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST MARNER SPECULATION
TSN insider Darren Dreger created a stir yesterday by suggesting the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to make an aggressive contract offer to re-sign Mitch Marner. The 22-year-old winger becomes a restricted free agent on July 1. Dreger believes it could cost the Leafs between $10 – $11 million annually. He also said he’d be surprised if the Marner camp sought more than five years on his next deal.
Dreger also said he expects Marner’s representatives will take contract negotiations beyond July 1. That would make the winger eligible to sign an offer sheet from a rival club. He expects Marner could start visiting teams beginning on June 26 during the RFA offer-sheet interview period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dreger’s comments didn’t sit well with some denizens of Leafs Nation. Several accused the TSN analyst of baseless speculation. Others slammed Marner, calling for the Leafs to trade him or play “chicken” with the winger if he intends to go the offer-sheet route.
The Leafs limited salary-cap space (over $74 million invested in 17 players) explains the ongoing concern over Marner’s next contract. Even if he accepted a “hometown discount” below $10 million per season, it won’t leave sufficient room to fill out the remainder of the Leafs roster. That includes re-signing fellow RFA wingers Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.
Some fans believe Marner isn’t worth over $10 million per season. Because he’s a Toronto native, they feel he should take less money to continue playing in his hometown. Since his NHL debut in 2016-17, Marner’s led the Leafs in scoring twice and is coming off a career-high 94-point performance. He’s worth over $10 million per season.
Some will split hairs by suggesting Marner never would’ve been the Leafs leading scorer had Auston Matthews not been injured during those seasons. Perhaps, but that doesn’t diminish Marner’s offensive abilities.
A player coming off a 94-point performance will make over $10 million per season unless he plays in a city without provincial or state taxes. That’s why the Tampa Bay Lightning can re-sign their top players for less than market value. The fact Marner plays in his hometown doesn’t mean he should accept less money for the privilege of doing so.
The Leafs could’ve avoided this situation last summer had they not ponied up $11 million annually to John Tavares. Now, they must gut their roster to pay their leading scorer the big raise he’s earned. Otherwise, they must trade him before July 1 or pass on matching an expensive offer sheet from another club.
MORE “LUCIC-FOR-ERIKSSON” CHATTER
TSN’s Jason Gregor took to Twitter yesterday reporting a source saying Vancouver Canucks management discussed shipping Loui Eriksson to Edmonton for Milan Lucic. “I heard from a really good source that Jim Benning and his staff did sit down and discuss a Loui Eriksson for Milan Lucic trade. I see it from both sides. Here’s our bad guy for your guy who’s underachieved. I was told it happened in April, May, this offseason.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gregor didn’t say Benning contacted the Oilers to discuss this. Sounds like it was an internal conversation with his staff on the pros and cons of this move. Lucic has four seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $6 million plus a no-movement clause. Eriksson has three seasons with the same annual cap hit and a no-trade clause.
For the right teams, both players could waive their respective clauses. Lucic has hinted he’d be open to joining his hometown Canucks at some point. Whether this swap takes place remains to be seen.