Mitch Marner is a really good player. He’s potentially a great player. And he still hasn’t signed a new contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Which is a problem, because he’s one of the team’s three best players. On the one hand, Marner probably wouldn’t sign with the Leafs for less than $11 million at this point, so, if he didn’t play, the Leafs could use that money elsewhere in a very effective way.
However, the longer this stalemate goes and the closer to the season it gets before he signs or goes elsewhere, the less time the Leafs have to sign a good player. If he holds out into the beginning of the regular season, that’s a large chunk of money the Leafs are just not spending.
If you hadn’t noticed, I’m not one of those very optimistic Leafs fans that seem to be everywhere right now. No, my current fandom more resembles my attitudes towards the team in 2011 than it does that of a fan who thinks his team is on the precipice of winning a Stanley Cup.
I wrote lots this past year about three of my favourite teams having a legit chance to win a championship, and how I expected two to mess it up and maybe, just maybe, one team would get it done. Well, the Toronto Raptors are the NBA champions, the Los Angeles Rams made the Super Bowl and are still one of the top five teams heading into the 2019 NFL season. That leaves us with the Leafs as the team that will mess it up.
I really wish that wasn’t true. But when I look around the league at the teams that are winning — the star-less, well-rounded St. Louis Blues, or the balanced and star-studded Tampa Bay Lightning — I don’t see teams that resemble the Toronto Maple Leafs. That is, a very top-heavy, unbalanced hockey team.
The latest news is that Marner may go play with the Zurich Lions of the Swiss League, or at least attend training camp there. At first glance, it seems far-fetched, but, at this point of the year, I feel like anything is possible. Anything, that is, except Marner signing a deal that works great for both he and the team and results in him having a great season for Toronto.
Even if he does sign, I see half the fans being mad at him. I see him starting out slow, as William Nylander did after he signed his extension, another situation I was very down on and that left me unimpressed. I see Marner possibly becoming jaded about the team, and wanting out anyway.
I don’t see Mitch Marner’s normally happy face annoyingly chewing on his mouth guard like Steph Curry on ice, as if everything is normal and right in the world. And that’s unfortunate, because that’s really all I want.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.