Sound the alarms. Marner-watch is officially over.
On Friday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and restricted free agent forward Mitch Marner reached an agreement on a six-year contract worth an average of $10.893 million a year. The 22-year-old is entering his fourth season in the NHL after being selected fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Leafs. He enjoyed a career-best year in 2018-19 as he tallied 26 goals and 68 assists in a full 82-game slate.
The near $11 million a year for an RFA is certainly unprecedented and could mark a shift in hockey economics. With just three years of service, Marner scored a deal often reserved for top-end players approaching free agency later in their 20s. In fact, Marner’s cap hit ranks as the seventh highest in the entire league. That places him above players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, and reigning Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov. Among the players above him are Connor McDavid and 2019 prize free agents, Artemi Panarin and Erik Karlsson. And, of course, a couple of his teammates.
|* Signed during offseason|
Marner enjoyed a steady jump in play from year one to year two. However, it is no coincidence that he made a huge leap after his second year with the addition of John Tavares ($11M cap hit) during the 2018 offseason. In addition, former first overall pick Auston Matthews ($11.63M cap hit) absence for 14 games in 2018 gave Marner more of an opportunity to flourish.
The Leafs now have all three of their top players locked up through at least the 2022-23 season. However, as it stands right now, the collective salaries of Marner, Tavares, and Matthews account for 41 percent of the current league cap limit of $81.5 million. That’s a tough pill to swallow when it comes with little to no playoff success. Before accounting for the LTIR numbers, the Leafs are already well over the $81.5M mark and will likely be cap-strapped for the foreseeable future.
— Full Press NHL (@FPC_NHL) September 14, 2019