Welcome to July 5th!
Today is the deadline for player-elected arbitration around the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a player who is unsigned and allowed to go down this path, but teams around the league tend to make some of their moderately important RFA signings on this date.
Last year, we saw players like Andreas Athanasiou, Boone Jenner, and Trevor van Riemsdyk get inked to new deals. Athanasiou shares agent Darren Ferris with our very own* Mitch Marner and they went down a long and dark negotiation two summers ago that dragged until October 23rd, 2017. Hopefully that is not the case with Mitch because for one, we couldn’t afford the pro-rated first year (unless the Leafs trade Cody Ceci).
And speaking of the Leafs and Cody Ceci, they came to an official agreement on a contract worth $4.5 million for just next season, walking Ceci to unrestricted free agency. They could always pick up the pace, you know. Alexander Kerfoot (who doesn’t like to go by “Alex”) also signed a new deal, this one is four years in length and with an AAV of $3.5 million. Kerfoot makes $100k more than Andreas Johnsson for the same term and will expire when they are the same age: 29.
Here is the write up of the contracts, including a very thorough breakdown of Toronto’s cap situation. Katya does a great job expanding into the signing bonus structures of each contract. For example, Ceci has none, so it very much sounds like they want to keep him this year.
Also in contract news, the Toronto Marlies added a trio of players to their roster next season. Marcus Power returns to unleash his... well, power on the ECHL. Defenseman Sergei Sapego and Maksim Zhukov come in from amateur hockey. Zhukov is an interesting addition. He is a former fourth-round pick only turning 20 years-old this month. He joins a goalie depth chart that feels over-filled in the wrong ways.
Circling back to the NHL, GM Kyle Dubas spoke to Tim and Sid of Sportsnet on their show about the signings made that day along with and update on the Marner contract. Dubas was both very professional but also candid in some of his team’s intentions going forward. For one, he believes that Mike Babcock and his coaching staff can and will try to “fix” Cody Ceci and turn him into a reliable defenseman.
Considering their systems, teammates, and how his deployment will be light-years ahead of what the Ottawa Senators had, they might have a shot. How hard is it to teach defense, anyway?
Speaking of surviving the tenure of Ceci in a Leafs jersey, his former arch-nemesis Acting the Fulemin has a very good article ready to come out at 8 a.m. Be sure to tune into for that! Only 361 more days until Ceci definitely isn’t a Leaf anymore (2020 is a leap year!)
Offer sheet season is also heating up again. The NHL seemingly lost their offer sheet virginity this summer with the Sebastian Aho hostile takeover by the Montreal Canadiens. Since then, the possibility of Marner getting a contract of his own has appeared to creep into reality. David Pagnotta has been a lot more hit than miss in recent years (he broke the Tavares signing), but he’s saying that teams are getting close to offering a contract to Marner.
Increased chatter at least 1 team is very seriously considering presenting Mitch Marner with an offer sheet. Unclear on timing, IF it happens. Of course, Marner would have to sign, and if he does, Leafs will have a decision to make. Something to watch, as talks with TOR continue.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 4, 2019
Going back to Dubas’ Tim and Sid interview, he didn’t sound like he would be offended if an offer sheet came his way. Dubas made sure to be clear that offer sheets are collectively bargained by the players and league and it’s within the rules everyone signed up for. The Leafs should be in a fine position to match or consider matching should one come. The team only has $3,765,301 in cap space today, but in the summer teams can go $8.15 million (10%) over the ceiling, so that’s $11.915,301 to use in defence of Marner.
These are not proven statistics (oh no, someone alert that Sportsnet commenter), but the NHL does do a lot of business on July 5th as well as on Fridays. Combine that with the relatively positive reception the Marc Bergevin offer sheet got in both Montreal and Carolina (because it was a farce of an offer sheet), perhaps teams aren’t as scared to file one to Marner’s agent and have them agree to it.
Or it could be nothing.
Happy Friday, everyone!
Beyond anything to do with sports, Toronto’s really lucky to have both Masai Ujiri and Kyle Dubas. Two really incredible people.— Faizal Khamisa (@SNFaizalKhamisa) July 4, 2019