If the Toronto Maple Leafs’ negotiations with Mitch Marner last as long as they did with William Nylander last season, many other NHL teams are going to be in trouble. According to The Athletic’s Joe Smith, many other agents are waiting to see how Marner’s deal shakes out before finalizing terms for their own top restricted free agent forwards. A surprising number of prominent RFA forwards remain unsigned and could stay that way until the Marner deal sets the market.
Writing specifically about the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team facing their own RFA conundrum with breakout center Brayden Point, Smith states that the team expects Point to be ready for camp in September, but agent Gerry Johansson is content with the “slow process”. The agents for Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Tkachuk, Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser, Patrik Laine, and Travis Konecny likely feel the same way and are apparently waiting to see where Marner, the best of the group, ends up before moving forward. In fact, Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal also added today that things are very quiet around Boeser’s camp and he acknowledges that the process has been slow for most big-name RFA’s.
So what will be the first domino to fall? Will Marner really sign first and set the stage for everyone else? Or will another unsigned star finally budge and give the market a much-needed comparable? While Marner, who recorded 94 points in 82 games last year, is the most established player and considered the top RFA who would be the ceiling for the market, he was actually quite comparable to Rantanen and Point last season. However, the rest of the group could benefit from any of the group signing a contract to use as a point of comparison. At this point in the summer, the odds are high that at least one of these negotiations will last into the regular season. But if the reports are true that the market waits on Marner, those teams with top unsigned RFA forwards better hope that Toronto and their star winger are closer than it seems.