Report: Leafs changing strategy for Marner contract negotiations

It's about to get ugly, isn't it?

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In case you somehow, someway missed yesterday’s news the Toronto Maple Leafs signed a superstar center Auston Matthews to a contract extension worth nearly $60 million over five years.

Matthews’ new deal will come with a $11.63 million cap hit, which will make him the team’s highest paid player, just $630,000 north of John Tavares’ $11 million cap hit. Of course, with Mitch Marner still left to sign and with high priced forwards William Nylander and Patrick Marleau also under contract, navigating the NHL’s salary cap could get tricky for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas.

Here’s the thing though… Marner’s agent Darren Ferris has indicated to the team that his client is unwilling to negotiate until the offseason and that they’re not interested in taking any kind of discount.

“There’s no team friendly discount here,” said Ferris yesterday when asked how things are progressing. “So far they’ve been trying to lowball. That’s the reason we’ve come to this point,” he added.

So… what do the Leafs do now? Honor Marner’s wishes and wait until the offseason? Or do they jump in now and try to manage this before things turn ugly? As contentious as the Nylander negotiations got, they started off on the right foot. We’re fully five months from Marner’s contract expiring and the war of words in the media has already begun. So… what to do?

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman reports that he believes the Leafs will “take a run” at Marner and agent Ferris now. Strike while the iron is hot and get to the gettin’ while the gettin’s good, if you will.

Check out this quote from Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet:

Now watch the Maple Leafs take a run at signing Marner. His agent, Darren Ferris, has maintained there wouldn’t be any negotiations during the season. But now they know the Matthews number, Marner wants to be a Leaf, and, most importantly, Toronto wants to end the contract circus. 

Friedman’s right about one thing… if Marner’s negotiations run into next season, as the Nylander negotiations did this season, Toronto is going to be a three ring circus. Still… Marner cannot just sign any deal. If anything this season has proved that he’s just as important to the Leafs’ future as Matthews and Tavares and he can certainly argue that he’s not worth a penny less. Whether or not Leafs management sees it this way though, remains to be seen.