Restricted Free Agency often works like dominos, where the first one must fall and set the market in order to for the rest to follow suit.
Mitch Marner, coming off of a 94-point season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is undoubtedly that first domino of the 2019 RFA class. And as the Thornhill, Ontario, native awaits a new contract, the rest of the league’s RFAs appear to be waiting on him.
According to the Athletic’s Joe Smith, several of the NHL’s top RFAs — including Brayden Point, Patrik Laine, Brock Boeser, Mikko Rantanen and Matthew Tkachuk — are waiting on Marner’s new deal to set the market before they sign on the dotted line.
Marner, who finished 11th in scoring in the final year of his entry-level contract, is in line for a sizeable raise that could make him one of the highest paid players in the NHL.
Unfortunately for both Marner and the Maple Leafs, the team’s salary cap restraints have made it difficult for the two parties to strike a deal, even after Toronto landed David Clarkson and the salary-cap relief he provides in a trade with Vegas.
As we learned last season with William Nylander, these kind of contract negotiations can run well into the start of the regular season. Nylander eventually signed his new contract just minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline that would have forced him to sit out the entire 2018-19 season.
Negotiations that leak into the regular season will cost the player games, and can leave the organization singing the salary-cap blues. The first-year cap hit for an RFA who signs during the regular season is prorated, which only creates more financial headaches for teams that are already pressed up against the cap.
With the 2019-20 season set to kick off in two months, there appears to be plenty of people — and not just Maple Leafs fans — who want to see Marner signed as soon as possible.
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