When the Mitch Marner saga came to an end, some believed that it would move along some of the other restricted free agent negotiations around the league. That may not be the case for two Finnish forwards, who are currently training overseas. Mikko Rantanen and Patrik Laine are both practicing with SC Bern of the Swiss NLA, and don’t appear close to new deals with the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets respectively. In fact, their agent Mike Liut joined Sportsnet radio this morning and talked about the negotiations, bluntly stating that they’re “not close” on either player. Liut went on to draw comparisons for one of his clients to Marner:
I think that Mitch Marner and Mikko Rantanen are probably the two closest comparables in terms of how they play the game. Where you have wingers that are adept at creating offense for those that they’re playing with. They do it maybe a little bit differently. Mikko’s 225 (lbs) and Mitch is not, but Mitch is a carrier and a great player. The Leafs have really looked into the future. You’re going to have a salary cap at $81.5MM, there’s no growth factor, one half of one percent. History has shown what the league does on a year-over-year basis, it’s going to 2.5% revenue growth.
Your top line, your top three players whether they’re defensemen or forwards are going to be in that range that the Leafs have created.
Liut also discussed how teams are going to have to roll through players on a more constant basis in order to keep their top players paid. Laine and Rantanen both certainly want to be compensated like top players, and it’s easy to see why. Laine has scored 110 goals in his three-year career, one of the highest rates in the league thanks to his incredible shot and ability to float away from traffic at the right time. Though his overall point totals declined sharply last season, goal-scorers are rewarded handsomely in the NHL and Laine should be no different.
Rantanen meanwhile has become one of the most impressive offensive players in the league, recording 171 points over the last two seasons. While some of that is because of his time with Nathan MacKinnon, there’s no doubting Rantanen’s talent. The tenth overall pick from 2015, Rantanen stands 6’4″ but has the puck skills and playmaking ability often associated with much smaller players. Even in the playoffs where young players often struggle, the Colorado forward led his club with 14 points in 12 games and was a force on the ice on almost every shift. If his camp truly sees a direct comparison to Marner, they must be looking for a pretty big raise. The Toronto Maple Leafs forward recently signed a six-year deal worth more than $65MM, putting him among the top handful of salaries ($10.893MM AAV) in the NHL.
While both are practicing overseas at the moment, Liut downplayed the idea that either one would sign with a European club even if the contract included an NHL-out clause. That should settle some nerves in Colorado and Winnipeg, but if contracts aren’t close at this point there should be real concern that the Finns will miss a good chunk of training camp or perhaps even the start of the regular season.