NHL Mailbag: What’s the endgame of Mitch Marner’s contract?

The wait for Mitch Marner to sign his new contract drags on. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
The wait for Mitch Marner to sign his new contract drags on. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

With the exception of that exciting Adam Erne trade, it’s officially mid-August because there’s absolutely nothing happening in the NHL. I don’t know what to tell you. Everyone’s at the cottage or starting to get some informal skates in.

Let’s go:

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Alex asks: “What’s up with Jake Gardiner being unsigned and why have there been almost no rumors around him?”

Well the rumour at this point is that he either has a deal in principle with an NHL team that still has a big-ticket RFA to re-sign, or has a few offers on the table from those teams and would choose when things firm up a bit more. I’ve heard that a few times in the last little while here, and that probably means it’s the truth; so it certainly narrows the field of potential destinations. Colorado, Columbus, Calgary, Boston, Philly, maybe Vancouver all seem like some decent options here, though I think Philly, Columbus, and Colorado seem like three of destinations that make the most sense.

Of course, depending on the timelines and so on —it seems like a lot of these RFAs will start signing around the start of camp — you might not hear anything here for another month or so. But that’s what’s up right now, as I understand it.

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Greg asks: “Who are the top candidates to score over 100 points for the first time next season?”

I’ll give you five:

David Pastrnak (who had 81 in 66 games last year)

Johnny Gaudreau (99 in 82)

Mitch Marner (94 in 82)

Auston Matthews (73 in 68)

Mark Stone (73 in 77)

I think maybe Pastrnak and Stone are the biggest stretches here. The former because the Bruins way overproduced offensively, so even if they’re as great as they were last year, the odds he and Marchand end up near 100 points again seem relatively low. On the other hand, Pastrnak and Bergeron both missed 15ish games and they scored a ton, so it’s possible.

As for Stone, he was incredible on a dead-end Ottawa team last season and his scoring slowed down once he got to Vegas. But he’s never played with this much talent before and he seems like a good bet to take his game to the next level at age 27.

Chris asks: “What has been the single savviest non-draft offseason move?”

Colorado getting Sam Girard to go $5-million AAV from 2020-27 looks like it could turn into an insane bargain. Especially because he only got a nine-team no-trade list, and only in the last three years of a seven-year deal.

The Avs probably had the best summer of anyone even without that deal — they added a lot of talent without adding a ton of money — and depending on the Mikko Rantanen contract it could get even better. Not sure how he can ask for more than $7-8 million with Nathan MacKinnon coming it at $6.3 million for the next four seasons, so he could be a bargain too.

The Avalanche are a trendy pick to make some noise in the Western Conference. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Avalanche are a trendy pick to make some noise in the Western Conference. (Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jeremy asks: “Which, if any members of the 2019 draft class (excluding Hughes and Kakko) have a legitimate shot at playing in the NHL full-time this year?”

Not to big up Colorado more than I already have here, but the answer seems like it’s Bowen Byram both because he’s really good (numerous people have said he’s NHL-ready), but also because Colorado’s bottom pair could use a guy like him even at 19.

Chicago probably has space in the lineup for Kirby Dach, also. I don’t see too many other options out there for guys who will stick beyond their tryouts.

Will asks: “What is the best and most likely season I can expect from the Coyotes?”

I think “best” is probably a low-level Western Conference playoff team if things go right offensively and Antti Raanta is as good as he can be. Of course, he’s coming off a season severely shortened by injury and he didn’t play after the start of December).

Realistically, I think Phil Kessel and Co. aren’t enough to push this group over the edge, so they’ll probably improve but not enough to get them into the playoffs. That’s life!

Adam asks: “Am I the only one who thinks the Devils need to trade Taylor Hall?”

I was once like you. He’s a pending UFA on a team that was seemingly spinning its tires and unable to surround him with offensive talent or defensive help. Then they got the top pick in the draft.

Now, it depends heavily on whether they think he would actually re-sign. Like I said last week, I think the Devils took a huge step forward, but they were so irrelevant last year (for a number of reasons) that I doubt they’re a playoff team. So if it even looks like he wants out, you cannot under any circumstances risk losing a recent MVP for nothing.

So now I’m team “Let’s give it a minute.”

Hall will hit unrestricted free agency after next season. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Hall will hit unrestricted free agency after next season. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Josh asks: “What’s the endgame of Mitch Marner’s contract? When does he sign and for how much?”

He wants to get a ton of AAV on a middle-term deal. We’re talking in the neighbourhood of an $11-million AAV for four or five years. That’s what he wants. Were I a betting man, I’d say he’ll end up coming in probably around $10 million for five or six years. Give or take.

As for when he’ll sign, the way the Leafs’ cap situation is set up, the answer seems to be “right after the season starts.” That way they can stash everyone on LTIR and exploit the loophole they found to go over the cap comfortably. He’ll miss a game or two — the Leafs play opening night, after all — but that’ll be that.

Lucas asks: “You’re the NHL’s new commissioner; what’s the first big rule change you push through and why?”

I’m kinda torn between “it’s 4-on-4 from now on” and “no more hitting,” but I’ll go with the latter because it makes the game safer and emphasizes skill on the puck a lot more. Pretty simple answer but there ya go.

Ryan Lambert is a Yahoo! Sports hockey columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.

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