By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The floodgates on an offseason stifled by a star-studded crop of restricted free agents should finally open, as the Toronto Maple Leafs took care of restricted free agent Mitch Marner on Friday, signing the forward to a six-year, $65.358 million contract (a $10.893 million average annual value), according to multiple reports.
The 22-year-old Marner finished with 94 points in 82 games last year, good for tops among all Toronto skaters, and the 11th-most in all of hockey, and this new deal makes him the seventh-highest paid player (sorted by cap hit).
In fact, Marner's new contract gives the Leafs three of the league's seven-highest paid players sorted by cap hit, with Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million) and Drew Doughty ($11 million) sandwiched between Auston Matthews ($11.634 million), John Tavares ($11 million), and now Marner. Add it up and you have three Toronto skaters accounting for $33.5 million of the team's $81.5 million salary cap. The Leafs also have forward William Nylander on their books at over $6.9 million per season, meaning Toronto is spending nearly half of their salary cap on four forwards.
That's not exactly the most palatable cap situation for a Toronto squad still in need of a defensive boost (the Maple Leafs allowed the 8th-most shots per game and 12th-most goals against per game last year) in their quest to push themselves ahead of the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in a straight-up stacked Atlantic Division.
The Leafs will have to hope that Playoff Marner continues to be Playoff Marner, though, with five goals and 17 points in 20 career playoff games (and a four-nine-13 line in 14 postseason head-to-heads against the Bruins).
The Bruins, meanwhile, are still trying to work on new deals for restricted free agent defensemen Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, and with just over $8 million in available cap space to their name.