Toronto Maple Leafs fans may be nervous about the prospect of a Mitch Marner offer sheet, especially after some recent comments, but GM Kyle Dubas isn’t. Dubas tells NHL.com’s Mike Zeisberger that he has used the ongoing NHL Scouting combine as an opportunity to meet with Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris, in hopes of getting a new deal done with their star forward as soon as possible:
We’re not letting any time slip away. Any chance we’ve had to have time with Darren, we’re taking it. We’re trying to move it along. That’s really the key. I don’t see any need to delay it. We would like to come to agreements the very first minute we can. Unfortunately with the way things are it’s not overly realistic to think we can do that. Just keep working. I think I said before — we have to go back to check the tape — everyone knows how we feel about Mitch. I’m not afraid to say that Mitch holds a special place in the cosmos of our group… The reality is, Mitch is a great player. We’ve been very clear how we feel about him as a player and a person. He’s been a great Maple Leaf. He should be a Maple Leaf his whole career. I think Mitch and Darren have both stated that at times. We’re going to keep working with Darren to move this along and progress it ahead and come to an agreement which will make Mitch feel like he’s compensated at the level he’s deserved and us with a way to navigate our way ahead. I think if we’re all willing to work towards it we’ll get there. That’s what we have the time for here.
Dubas continues that he would be surprised if Marner were to entertain the idea of an offer sheet and has never been led to believe that it has been discussed as an option by Marner’s camp. Dubas knows that Marner, as well as Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, could be popular targets for the elusive offer sheet, but is prepared to deal with that scenario if it arises:
I think you have to study what the probability may be. You can’t ignore it. You can’t just say that because something hasn’t happened, it won’t happen. You have to be realistic. You have to look around and identify which teams have the capital, which teams have the cap space, and which teams have the combination of both… That’s the way we’ve gone about it. As a management group, our focus has been on finding contract resolutions with Mitch and Johnsson and Kapanen.
By all accounts, Dubas is farther along in talks with all three of Marner, Johnsson, and Kapanen than he was with William Nylander at this time last year. Nylander of course held out well into the start of this past season, but that doesn’t appear to be the likely outcome for any Toronto RFA’s this year. And while the threat of offer sheets exist, that too doesn’t seem to be a probable ending. The question thus becomes, if new contracts can be signed with Marner, Johnsson, and Kapanen, where does it leave the Maple Leafs in salary cap terms and who will have to move this summer to make the team cap compliant?
- While NHL executives and agents alike obviously use the NHL Scouting Combine as an opportunity to talk to one another, the focus of course is on the draft class. One prospect in particular has been busier than just about anyone at the combine. NBC Sports Chicago’s Slavko Bekovic reports that American defenseman Ryan Johnson is the only player in attendance thought to have met with all 31 NHL teams. Johnson is not your typical popular top-of-the-first prospect, though. Instead, he has been ranked as high as No. 18 and as low as No. 55 by reputable scouting sources and many teams are likely still trying to gauge whether or not he is a first-round caliber player. To his credit, Johnson will at least likely go ahead of many highly-regarded U.S. National Team Development Program defenders after he himself did not make the team. The stalwart defenseman for the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede is a solid, mobile defenseman and a strong locker room presence, but the question is whether he is a top-31 player in this draft. Every team in the league will apparently get the chance to answer that question.
- Bekovic also reports that Illinois native Alex Turcotte, a top-ten prospect, has met with his hometown Chicago Blackhawks this week. While the Blackhawks have met with several other intriguing prospects who they could select at No. 3, including Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach, and Peyton Krebs, it’s hard to ignore the fit that Turcotte would have with the organization. The USNTDP standout told Bekovic that he grew up a big Blackhawks fan and has always dreamed of playing for the team. He also models his game after Jonathan Toews and relishes in the frequent comparisons between the two. GM Stan Bowman is not going to let sentiment dictate a crucial pick for his franchise, but Turcotte’s talent alone may make him the third-best player in this class, with the local ties just an added bonus.