As the Maple Leafs trudge through yet another pressure-packed summer of negotiations with arguably the best restricted free agent on the market, so do the rumours of another NHL club trying to lure Mitch Marner away from Toronto.
Every day the Maple Leafs don’t lock up their young, explosive winger — who is reportedly looking for “Auston Matthews money” — means another day that Marner sits out in the open, exposed, vulnerable to an offer sheet from any number of clubs willing and able to make such a move.
Over the past couple of days, the rumours and speculation surrounding a potential incoming offer sheet to Marner intensified to Stage 10, with several outlets and insiders publicly putting out the notion that it’s more a matter of who takes a run at Marner and when, rather than “if.”
David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period was the first to suggest that an offer sheet to Marner was imminent:
Increased chatter at least 1 team is very seriously considering presenting Mitch Marner with an offer sheet. Unclear on timing, IF it happens. Of course, Marner would have to sign, and if he does, Leafs will have a decision to make. Something to watch, as talks with TOR continue.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 4, 2019
Mike Kelly took it one step further on Friday, noting that the Islanders in particular are hungry to make a splash after coming up empty on a couple big name RFAs, and Lou Lamoriello’s old squad could very well be the target:
The Islanders lost out on Panarin but they aren’t done big-game hunting yet. Offer sheet is a very real possibility and Marner is the most likely target.— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) July 5, 2019
Radio personality Joey Vendetta noted on a prominent Toronto morning program that he gets the impression an offer sheet could come in as early as Friday, and that it has the potential to be huge — like Connor McDavid-money huge.
"From what I understand it should happen today...I heard $12.5M," he said, without specifying any teams.
The most obvious candidates here would be the Islanders, who could gloriously ignite a Dubas-Lou boardroom showdown which would be exquisite to watch unfold. Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens — who doled out the first tendered offer sheet in more than six years last week — could also make a play after failing miserably in their attempt to lure Sebastian Aho away from the Hurricanes.
The Devils, Sabres, Flyers and others could all realistically make a play on Marner, too.
Amid all this, not much has been mentioned about the Isles’ own cap perils. Lou’s squad currently has only around $8.7M in cap space, and still has Anthony Beauvillier unsigned as an RFA.
If a sheet did come Marner’s way, Toronto — which currently has less than $10 million in available cap space — would have to match within a week or lose the player, but would receive four first-round picks in compensation.
Offer sheet SZN, baby.
More NHL coverage from Yahoo Sports