For the past two years Toronto Maple Leafs fans have been told they have to worry about being able to keep all three of William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Mitchell Marner. After they added John Tavares this summer, that talk ramped up.
The one common item in all the rhetoric and fear mongering was the idea that an offer sheet was going to be used.
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Their only point to bringing up offer sheets is to cash in on the worries of Maple Leafs fans, and believe me, you only stoop to that when you have an empty schedule and need to get some kind of content out.
A player hasn’t signed an offer sheet in six years - Ryan O’Rielly was the last player to sign one, and it was hilarious.
In fact, only eight offer sheets have been signed in the NHL since 1998. It’s just not something that’s done very often, and I don’t see why it will come into fashion all of a sudden, focused squarely on the Maple Leafs. Several NHL teams have high-profile RFAs on expiring contracts this summer, and not many have cap room, and a lot of the teams that do have room, no one would want to sign with them.
We can break up the league into four groups, ranging from “Absolutely not” to “maybe we should worry about them”.
As a reminder the offer sheet compensation picks:
$1,395,053 or below: None
$1,395,054-$2,113,716: 2020 3rd round pick
$2,113,717-$4,227,437: 2020 2nd round pick
$4,227,438-$6,341,152: 2020 1st, 2020 3rd
$6,341,153-$8,454,871: 2020 1st, 2020 2nd, 2020 3rd
$8,454,872-$10,568,589: 2020 & 2021 1sts , 2020 2nd, 2020 3rd
Over $10,568,590+: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 1st round picks
The picks must be the original picks for the team presenting the offer sheet. Traded-for picks don’t count.
Let’s start with the obvious no’s.
While they’re making strides on the ice, the franchise itself is still a bit of a mess with no stable arena situation - the lease is year to year - and new ownership every 15 minutes. Their big question is if the new ownership will be willing to offer a contract worth more than the franchise itself?
Sun, no snow, and Disneyland could make Anaheim an attractive place to play, but with only nine million in cap space for next season and Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf taking up roster space - as well as pending UFA Korbanian Holzer to resign - the Ducks won’t be offer-sheeting anyone.
Charlie McAvoy needs a new contract this off-season. Jake DeBrusk next. They aren’t going to be a threat to anyone.
Let’s be honest, if they couldn’t get Calgary native William Nylander to sign one, there’s no hope for non-Calgarians. Plus they have their own big RFA to sign in fan favourite Matthew Tkachuk. Also, let’s take a look at their goalies for next season and...oh yeah, there are none.
Tampa Bay Lightning
One name: Brayden Point.
Columbus Blue Jackets
They’re just missing too many draft picks: If Duchene re-signs in Columbus, they won’t have any of their first three 2020 draft picks.
With only $3 million in cap space, the Penguins are just happy to be mentioned in this article.
Being a recent cup winner would make them attractive - and playing opposite Ovechkin’s wing would be a nice bonus - but the $10 million in cap space won’t be enough, they traded their 2020 second round pick to the Red Wings, and after next season, centre Nicklas Bäckström is a UFA.
They just don’t have the picks. Their first is conditional - it goes to the Rangers if they re-sign Mats Zuccarello - they traded away their second and third round picks. It would take a lot of wheeling and dealing to get those picks back and other teams would figure it out and take advantage.
They don’t have the cap space, unless they can trade PK Subban as rumored. Even then, they would be in cap trouble again with Roman Josi’s sweet deal expiring after next season.
San Jose Sharks
They only have seven forwards signed for next season, and don’t have the proper draft picks to proceed with an offer sheet. Also if they bring back Erik Karlsson that will eat into their cap space heavily and cost them more compensation picks.
Vegas Golden Knights
They have, according to Cap Friendly, $0 in cap space. That’s not good.
Who needs Marner when you have Milan Lucic signed for four more years?
Los Angeles Kings
Who needs Marner when you have Ilya Kovalchuk signed for two more years?
The Flyers have to deal with bringing Ivan Provarov and Travis Konecny back for next season, but they may still leave them with the cap space to bring in Mitch. Maybe.
Detroit Red Wings
They have too many players to re-sign in the next two seasons, but if they can swing some trades they could pull it off. They have the necessary picks, but I can’t see the Red Wings making it work.
First of all, GM Jack Eichel would never want to bring in a player better than he is. Second of all, the Sabres gave away their 2020 third round pick to acquire Jeff Skinner who they should be more focused on keeping. If the Sabres can get that pick back, they move into threat territory.
New York Islanders
While the Islanders have the picks and the cap space to try and get Mitch to sign, Lou wouldn’t give Marner all those sweet sweet rookie bonuses on his ELC, and papa Marner would never let his precious boy near mean ol’ Lou ever again.
New York Rangers
If the Rangers didn’t have seven forwards to re-sign after next season, on top of future Henrik Lunqvist replacement and Leaf killer Alexander Georgiev, they’d be the best market for Mitch to continue his quest for free stuff. Also they don’t have the proper picks unless they go the four firsts route.
St. Louis Blues
They have the picks, and the cap space, but they would have to be willing to let captain Alex Pietrangelo go after next season. It would also leave them with league minimum fourth line next season and beyond as well.
Maybe a threat?
They have the picks, and the cap space for next season, plus they’re trying to rebuild on the fly. The catch is the season after next when they have to pay Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, and their defence and goaltending is a bigger issue than scoring.
If the Habs dump salary before July 1st, we should be afraid. They can just barely fit him on the team right now if he signs for under $11 million. The picks are there, the base team around him would be there - Domi - Drouin - Marner? It’s an unlikely doomsday scenario, but remember that time the USSR thought the Americans were attacking and were ready to launch a response but one general refused to doom the world and it turned out it was a bug in the system? This is like that, but worse.
Ottawa has everything going for them in the offer sheet game: Cap space, top line minutes, and all the draft picks necessary. The one thing that would keep them from being a real contender in the offer sheet sweepstakes is the biggest thing in the organization:
Melnyk would love to stick it to the Maple Leafs by taking their most popular player, but after everything he’s done the past few years why the hell would Marner sign there? Forget losing all his Instagram sponsorships after he becomes our John Tavares leaving the Islanders; why would anyone with an option to play elsewhere sign in Ottawa?
They have the cap space - ten million less than Colorado and New Jersey - and all the picks necessary, but like Phil Kessel said when he nixed a trade there “I just don’t see them competing”. They have Zach Parise and Ryan Suter locked up until the sun explodes and destroys us all, and no real wow factor at all. I constantly forget they exist, so how will Marner get free watches and shampoo and phones if he’s lost in the woods?
They need to re-sign Patrik Laine. That’s their number one priority. However, if he signs around 9-10 million, they’ll still have the cap room for Marner. Jacob Trouba is also an RFA, but he’s expressed a desire to be traded in the past, and it may be time to move on from him.
We should worry.
The Hurricanes have the picks AND the cap space to make an offer sheet happen. They could even go the four first picks route and nab a star player for the long term. Offer sheets are in the Hurricanes’ history - they got Sergei Fedorov to sign one while he was in a contract dispute with the Detroit Red Wings.
They only question is would Tom Dundon want to make a move that expensive?
If they miss on Panarin and Marner still isn’t signed, the Panthers should take a run at signing Mitch. They have the space, the picks, and the favourite buzz phrase - ‘Florida Tax Situation’ - to toss around too. Aleksander Barkov and Mitch Marner together.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils have $35,000,000 in cap space for next season. Bringing in Mitch Marner could entice Taylor Hall to stay in New Jersey past next season (this did not work for John Tavares and the Islanders with Jordan Eberle however). Four picks in the first two rounds this year could offset losing multiple picks next year. If the Devils could make their case, they could pull it off.
Well, $37,000,000 in cap space and plenty of room for Marner on the top line makes the Avalanche a scary team heading into the free agency period. They are missing their third round pick in 2020 - sent to the Panthers to acquire Derick Brassard - but that’s an easy trade to make to get it back. They have to re-sign Mikko Rantanen, but after that they’ll still have a lot of space. If they want to be tight with the cap and unbalanced between their top and bottom six, they could pull it off.
They have the space, the picks, and are working their way up in the standings. The biggest knock on them is the Loui Eriksson contract, but Elias Pettersson makes up for that. They’re a rebuild on the fly and if they can keep Jim Benning away from the phone at the start of free agency, they’ll be a team ready for the future.
There are quite a few teams that can pose a threat to the Maple Leafs when it comes to Mitch Marner, but the chances of him signing with another team are still very slim. He’s already one of, if not the, most popular players on the Maple Leafs right now - and maybe even since the Mats Sundin heyday - and Marner would throw all of those benefits away.
The endorsements, the jersey sales, the retirement pension that’s charging five figures to show up at card shows - all of it would be thrown in the trash. He would still be an alumni of the Leafs, and be invited to events - Brad May who was a Leaf of two months gets the call - but it wouldn’t have the same impact if he was a high scoring Leaf for multiple seasons. The off-ice benefits to being a Maple Leaf aren’t replicated anywhere else in the league.
We’re most likely safe, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared.