The Toronto Maple Leafs have finally signed Mitch Marner, which means an end to the summer saga that kept fans in suspense.
Marner agreed to terms on a six-year deal worth $65.3 million, the team announced Friday. The contract carries an average annual value of $10.9 million.
This unlocks the door for other restricted free agents to sign around the league, as it appears market value has been set. But most importantly of all for Marner and the Maple Leafs, it ends things on an uplifting note and avoids any William Nylander-like waiting until the last possible minute.
Now, the 22-year-old can attend training camp and get his proverbial ducks in a row for another NHL season.
The Markham native had 94 points in 82 games last season, including 26 goals. In 241 games with Toronto across three seasons, Marner has a total of 224 points.
What this deal means for other teams remains to be seen, but you have to imagine Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen is among those who likes what he sees. The 22-year-old is among the higher profile RFAs remaining, with Patrik Laine, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Vancouver’s Brock Boeser also awaiting new deals before hitting up training camp.
The NHL game has changed so much in the last few years that RFAs like Marner and Rantanen hold all or most of the cards. They can afford the waiting game, they can make teams sweat it out to obtain and set market value. They’ve proven themselves, something other generations may have waited a lot longer to do. NHL clubs can no longer abide a wait-and-see approach when a 22-year-old is already setting the stage.
Case in point, Toronto now carries three of the seven highest cap hits in the league. Auston Matthews, John Tavares and now Marner make for a dynamic trio, but they also illustrate that teams are still willing to spend and get creative to lock in who they want.
The Maple Leafs were relatively smart here, buying two years of unrestricted free agency by boosting the term. Word was that the Marner camp was settling on three years, but adding a bit more green to the kitty set the wheels in motion. Now Toronto has the security they want, with Matthews and Nylander not up for re-ups until 2024 and Marner and Tavares not due another look until the year after.
Photo credit: NHL.com