TORONTO – On the subject of Mitch Marner, Morgan Rielly feels precisely the same way as Leaf Nation — minus some of the panic attacks and rabid refreshing of the Twitter feed.
Rielly is eager to see his unsigned teammate join the group, which began informally practising in full Tuesday morning at the Toronto Maple Leafs training facility in Etobicoke Ont., with head coach Mike Babcock overseeing the action from the stands.
Marner was one of two glaring absences, and the other, Auston Matthews, gets a pass because he’s off to Chicago, fulfilling league media obligations.
“We want Mitch here. We want him to be a part of camp. We want him to be involved. But he’s doing what he thinks he has to do,” Rielly said after his first on-ice session since flying to Toronto from Vancouver on Monday night.
“All we can do is worry about training camp. We all have confidence that he’s going to be here at some point. But, for now, we’re just going to work hard and get ready.”
Marner is one of several high-profile restricted free agents still without a contract. Training camp officially opens on Sept. 12, but Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and Marner’s agent, Darren Ferris, are still working toward a resolution.
Rielly, the club’s No. 1 defenceman and alternate captain, spoke with Marner several times over the course of the summer.
“You just want to support him. Let him know you’re there if he has any questions. It’s a friendship. You’re talking, catching up,” he said. “It’s not really about business all the time.”
Does having endured and survived a similar standoff with William Nylander last fall make the Marner situation easier on the rest of the players?
“It’s different all the time, but he’s not the only guy doing it,” said Rielly, joking that “you’d be surprised” how much the Marner saga got play in the media back in his off-season home of B.C.
“Twitter the way it is, and TV, you hear about it a lot,” Rielly said.
“It’s interesting this is happening just because it hasn’t happened like that (with so many unsigned RFAs) in the past.
“They’re doing what’s best for them. I don’t care about all those other guys. I care about Mitch because he’s a teammate, and we want him to get that done, and there’s confidence he will.”
Rielly also commented on his shock that longtime teammate and top-four calibre defenceman Jake Gardiner, an unrestricted free agent, is still looking for a job in September.
“Pretty surprised. It’s not the way I saw it unfolding,” said Reilly, denying any inside info on his friend’s situation.
“I’m sure he’ll get something done.
“You just want the best for him.”