According to a report by James Mirtle of the Athletic, Toronto Maple Leafs RFA forward Mitch Marner is seeking the largest bridge deal in NHL history.
Marner has recorded 67 goals and 224 points in his first 241 career NHL games to date and is coming off a career-high 94-point season. His entry-level deal that paid him an AAV of $1,744,167 expired at the end of the 2018-19 season. There’s long been speculation about whether the Leafs can afford to pay their big three of Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander.
William Nylander signed a six-year deal with an AAV of $6.9M last season, while Matthews signed a five-year contract extension with an AAV of $11.6M. Many will argue that Marner is the most valuable of the three.
According to the article by Mirtle in the Athletic, The Leafs originally proposed a long-term deal to Marner, but Marner’s camp countered with an expensive bridge proposal.
“There has been talk for ages now about the Leafs’ making a max-term offer, some time ago, at eight years and more than $10-million a season. Giving away that many UFA years, however, was a no-go for the Marner camp.
They apparently countered with three years at around a $10-million annual value, which would be the richest bridge deal in NHL history – by quite a bit. (Consider that Nikita Kucherov’s three-year bridge back in 2016 was for just under $4.8-million AAV.)”
Mirtle explained that with the Marner camp uninterested in an eight-year deal, there are three term lengths the Leafs have commonly been working with in this process: A three-year deal, a six-year deal and a seven-year deal.
The article also explains why the Leafs are interested in a three-year, six-deal or a seven-deal term.
Mirtle details that one- and two-year contracts are considered too short, while a four-year deal would make Marner a UFA at age 26 in the prime of his career. A five-year deal would mean that all three of Matthews, Nylander and Marner come up for renewal as UFAs in the same offseason in 2024.
“The good news is that I think this means Marner will get signed, at some point, and remain in Toronto.
The bad news is that he will get more than most of us anticipated and more than his comparables would dictate, making the Leafs’ already tight cap situation even tighter.”
One thing we know for certain is, if Marner signs, it will set a precedent for the NHL and the other RFA players heading into the 2019-20 season.