Don't be surprised if Mitch Marner does some window shopping this offseason

Signing Mitch Marner may not be as smooth of a process as Leafs fans hoped it would be. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
Signing Mitch Marner may not be as smooth of a process as Leafs fans hoped it would be. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Well, here we go again.

Less than a year removed from the absolute circus that was the re-signing of William Nylander, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs may have to go through it all again when their top scorer from last season becomes a restricted free agent on July 1.

It looks like Mitch Marner isn’t likely to put pen to paper with the Leafs anytime before Canada Day, and this whole process could very well take more time than anyone in Toronto would have hoped.

“The two sides have had exchanges, but I’m not talking about contract offers or negotiations, just back and forths,” said TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger during Leafs Lunch on TSN 1050. “I’d be surprised if the agent, Darren Ferris, doesn’t connect with (Leafs general manager) Kyle Dubas and the Leafs management crew in Buffalo this week during the (NHL Scouting) Combine, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up on that.”

Although this isn’t the type of thing Leafs fans want to hear, it shouldn’t be surprising. The 22-year-old had a sensational campaign where he set new career highs in goals (26), assists (68) and points (94) during the regular season. And while he was only able to put up a disappointing two goals and four points in Toronto’s first-round loss to the Boston Bruins, his game-breaking ability due to his speed and playmaking can’t be denied.

And when you have the type of skillset that shines among the best hockey players on the planet, you should be compensated accordingly for your services.

“I believe that the Marner camp is still looking at July 1st or beyond July 1st and he’s earned the right to do that,” Dreger continued. “He one hundred percent has earned the right to do that and I’d be shocked if Mitch Marner and Darren Ferris, or Mitch Marner, Darren Ferris and his dad or another member aren’t on an airplane on June 26th, starting the visiting process of the clubs that might be willing to offer sheet.”

Dreger added that he expects an aggressive offer from Dubas in late June, somewhere north of $10.5 or $11 million per season. Whether or not that, coupled with the winning potential within the Leafs dressing room, will be enough to keep Marner around is yet to be seen.

This is just the latest chapter in the Marner saga that basically began the moment Nylander signed his last-second, six-year extension on December 1.

“The dialogue’s been positive, the discussions have been going in the right direction and Mitch will be a Leaf for a long time, I’m sure, and everything will work out,” said Ferris on Sportsnet 590 the FAN in early February.

As of right now, there’s no reason to believe that statement won’t hold up. In all actuality, Leafs Nation should be quite levelheaded about all that is unfolding. No team has sent Marner an offer and, let’s remember, even if another franchise does, the guy has the choice to sign it or not.

Besides, “worst case scenario” if he signs an offer sheet and the Leafs don’t match is four — yes, FOUR! — first-round draft picks from the organization that would hypothetically scoop him up.

While Dreger’s words may cause some people to become a little uneasy, a number of dominos need to fall before things of any real concern happen.

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