Here’s a fun exercise: Take a quick scan of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ salary cap situation on CapFriendly.com and then try to come up with an explanation as to how in the world the Leafs can negotiate big money, long term deals for not only pending restricted free agent William Nylander, but sophomore superstars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, as well. No doubt about it, the Leafs are in a cap crunch.
Rookie general manager Kyle Dubas has some serious work to do if he’s going to get Matthews, Marner and Nylander to re-up with the Leafs on team friendly deals, especially given the team’s reported interest in pending unrestricted free agent John Tavares. Oh… and then there’s the John Carlson rumours as well… something’s got to give.
TSN analyst and NHL insider Bob McKenzie recently joined Leafs Lunch host Andi Petrillo on TSN 1050 radio to discuss Dubas’ options this offseason and dropped a potential bomb on Leafs Nation. According to McKenzie, Matthews and Marner are in no rush to negotiate a deal this summer and would prefer to wait until next offseason in the hopes of driving up their price and earning themselves even bigger contracts.
“Are Matthews and Marner interested in doing a deal this summer? I get the feeling that maybe they might want to wait… I get the feeling that these two guys are confident. Really confident in their ability and that if they have another really good year, they can improve their value.”
“And the other thing in play is that whatever the salary cap is at now, it’s going to be more a year from now. If you’re negotiating a year from now, you will ask for more money based on a percentage of the cap.”
“If Matthews wants to take a page from the playbook of the past with Crosby and Toews and Kane and McDavid and get 16 or 17 percent of the cap, doing a deal next summer will net him more money than this summer.”
For the record, Toews, Kane and McDavid each earn more than $10 million annually against the salary cap. McDavid, in fact, comes in at a whopping $12.5 million making Crosby’s $8.7 million deal look like a bargain basement deal and a half.
If Matthews can command $12 million+ and Marner comes in around $8-$10 million per season, how can the Leafs afford to keep both players around long term?
While it might be tempting for Dubas to put off any negotiations until next offseason and deal with the problems currently in front of him, the Matthews and Marner problems won’t go away. Their price will continue to climb and the Leafs could be left in the dust as a result. The time is now to negotiate these long-term deals, so long as McKenzie’s hunch is proven incorrect.