31 Takes: When should Leafs walk away from a Marner offer sheet?

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What would it take to pry Mitch Marner out of Toronto with an offer sheet? (Getty)
Mitch Marner offer sheet? (Getty)

Let’s suppose for a minute that all those rumors of a Mitch Marner offer sheet are going to come true. It still seems farfetched, especially because it’s one of those “wouldn’t it have happened by now?” things, but let’s just suppose.

First of all, it seems like we should take what Kyle Dubas said about not necessarily wanting to match any offer sheet Marner might sign. First and foremost it’s important to keep in mind that Marner allegedly wants something resembling Auston Matthews money, which would necessitate whoever signed him to give up four first-round picks.

The offer sheet Marner signs likely won’t be the kind of “easy match” the Sebastian Aho deal was; Carolina understood Aho’s value far exceeded the $8.454 million AAV he received, and even if they didn’t want to only go five years on such a deal, it’s the kind of thing you grin and bear because his value in terms of wins added is probably closer to $13 million-plus than even the $10.6-ish million that would have cost Montreal four first-round picks.

Montreal, trying to skirt even the need to give out two first-round picks in exchange for Aho, went cheap and Carolina never had to hesitate. The Hurricanes probably would have matched even if the deal would have provided them with four Montreal firsts, such is Aho’s value.

And Aho is no Marner. Real good player, obviously, but Marner has a slightly longer track record of being a top-tier player and took a bigger step this year, from “very good” to “elite” (though, y’know, playing with Tavares helps). So if Carolina thought it was an easy match at the doorstep of the top compensation level, and probably would have bitten the bullet at $12 million, what does the Leafs’ “walk away” number look like.

Even at $12.5 million, it shouldn’t be a particularly hard decision. At $13 million, you’ve got something to think about just because of the cap machinations you’d have to pull off going the other way. At $14 million, you’re probably still getting about what you’re paying for from him, but obviously financial realities really take hold then since you’d have to ship out as much as $5 million in cap obligations. Anything beyond that and it’s tough to match.

However, that also comes with two qualifications. First is the understanding that not all first-round picks are created equal. If it’s the New York Islanders, adding Marner might keep them as a fringe playoff team for a while to come. You’re getting four mid-teens picks, probably. If it’s the Devils, Marner could boost them to that level, but it’s tough to say. You might occasionally pick in the top 10. If it’s the Avalanche, well, Marner instantly makes them a very high-end team if the goaltending holds up. That feels a lot like a few picks in the 20s.

The second thing to keep in mind is that stars in this league are criminally underpaid. Connor McDavid is probably worth $15-16 million, easily, in terms of the wins he will reliably add, but he doesn’t make close to that much money. So while you can say “Actually, so-and-so should be his comparable,” so-and-so is underpaid because NHL GMs have a ludicrous addiction to overpaying middle-of-the-roster guys.

That fact changes the calculus for the Leafs because they have to understand that the sport is changing. Nylander started the “pay me what I’m worth” train rolling, and Marner getting whatever big-money deal he eventually lands will only give it more momentum. The days of RFAs taking less “for the good of the team” seem to be coming to an end, so even if the Leafs get great value out of the picks they get from an offer sheet, they’re only going to have to pay more for young talent going forward. That is, of course, true of whoever signs Marner, but locking in an elite talent at even one of the highest salaries in the league is going to look real smart before the deal is done.

All that said, of course, it’s still the NHL. It’s still very tough to bet on an offer sheet.

31 Takes

Anaheim Ducks: How is Andreas Martinsen the Ducks’ most notable signing of the offseason? What’s going on with this franchise?

Arizona Coyotes: So weird to think of the Coyotes as a cap team with legitimate high-end talent, but here we are.

Boston Bruins: If I were coming off a second season where I was worse than the previous one, I might not be super excited to go to arbitration, but you do you, Danton.

Buffalo Sabres: How did Marcus Johansson get less term than Chris Tanev? Man oh man.

Calgary Flames: The Flames have about $10 million in cap space to re-sign Dave Rittich, Sam Bennett, and some guy named Matt Tkachuk. That’s not gonna work.

Carolina Hurricanes: I think Ferland would be a nice player to bring back but it’s kinda surprising the market didn’t form around him like everyone thought it would at midseason.

Chicago Blackhawks: This is an interesting question but I can see this one going either way: Wouldn’t be surprised if Lehner regresses behind that defense and Crawford can’t stay healthy, but they’re both well above-average goalies when things go right.

Colorado Avalanche: With Zadorov locked in, the Avs have everyone but Rantanen, Burakovsky, and (to a far lesser extent) Compher locked down with almost $24 million in cap space. Just something to think about.

Columbus Blue Jackets: It really is tough to see where the goals come from with these guys next year. They need to make something happen, but what do they have to give up that wouldn’t hurt their blue line?

Dallas Stars: If Corey Perry is in your top six next season, that’s a big yikes.

Detroit Red Wings: As usual, “rugged” is a stand-in for “not good.”

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers owe Milan Lucic a $3-million bonus on July 17, and would probably be in a better position to move him after that except for the whole “rest of his contract” thing.

Florida Panthers: Insanely bad idea. No thanks.

Los Angeles Kings: I always say: The more members of the Kempe family you have, the better off you are.

Minnesota Wild: Big surprise here but the roster as currently constructed isn’t close to the playoff bubble.

Montreal Canadiens: Starting to feel like Marc Bergevin’s legacy in Montreal is going to boil down to losing trades and never attracting the free agents he targets.

Nashville Predators: Might be a long summer if this is the lede on a column about a trade two weeks ago.

New Jersey Devils: Yeah I’d say this is about right. The Devils improved but unless they can get reliably good goaltending they don’t have a strong enough roster to reasonably keep up, even if most Metro teams are worse than they were when the offseason started.

New York Islanders: The “buzz” on the Devils and Rangers is understandably good. The Isles, well...

New York Rangers: The Rangers will likely get one more crack at a buyout for Marc Staal, which would be a good idea due to his badness.

Ottawa Senators: This letter to the editor is something else.

Philadelphia Flyers: The unfortunate answer to this question is “one of the two guys Chuck Fletcher acquired in June.”

Pittsburgh Penguins: Kinda tough to argue with the premise here. This coming season should be an interesting one.

San Jose Sharks: Buddy, you don’t want to know.

St. Louis Blues: Kinda surprised no one has signed Patrick Maroon by now, given who else has come off the board since July 1.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Y’know, I hadn’t thought of the whole “Bobrovsky crushed the Lightning in the playoffs and now he’s in the same state as them” angle but that’s some wrestling angle stuff and I love it.

Toronto Maple Leafs: I feel like they didn’t know they didn’t have to give Cody Ceci a contract. That is the only logical explanation.

Vancouver Canucks: Think Leivo could be a nice little value add for the Canucks. Solid bottom-six guy.

Vegas Golden Knights: Tough to see that Subban arb hearing going well for the player.

Washington Capitals: I’m not sure the Capitals improved this summer but maybe they didn’t get that much worse, either. I dunno.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets really haven’t done much of anything this summer, eh? Weird.

Gold Star Award

Didn’t expect to have a hockey highlight to show you this summer but this defender might never get out of the blender again.

Minus of the Weekend

Just once I wish there would be a Kawhi-and-Paul-George-to-the-Clippers thing in the NHL. It would be so sick.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “WhiskeyYourTheDevils” wants to get the band back together.

Just for fun:

Hurricanes offersheet Laine 6x9M

(Not sure what this would have to look like for Winnipeg to not match).

Hurricanes trade Faulk + Gauthier for Puljujarvi + Benning

Signoff

And scuff up the topless dancing runway? Nah, you best bring them back wherefrom you got ‘em.

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

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