Leafs’ Marner on offer sheets: ‘I kind of turned it down right away’

Newly signed Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner discusses why he turned down any offer sheets right away, didn't ever want to explore that option.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Now that Mitch Marner’s extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs is taken care of, he can reflect on the long negotiating process. And he acknowledges that it included two offer sheets from rival teams this summer.

"Obviously it was nice hearing that other teams valued me, but I mean I knew this team valued me as well," Marner said Monday.

"The whole goal was to be a Maple Leaf, so it wasn’t in my head too much," he added. "As soon as kind of [agent Darren Ferris] mentioned it, I just told him right away that I don’t want to explore that option. I didn’t want to miss training camp, I didn’t want to miss any games this season.

"That’s why I really forced the issue with [GM Kyle Dubas] to make sure that we’d get something down here to get here and I’m happy to have it."

Marner signed a $65.358-million, six-year deal on Friday night. The big breakthrough in negotiations came after the 22-year-old winger sat down with Dubas for a heart-to-heart conversation on Thursday — just hours after training camp opened without him.

Talks between the Leafs and Marner’s agent had stretched back 15 months, and were particularly difficult for the star winger throughout the summer months.

That’s when the offer sheets came about and there was a heavy focus on the status of his situation with his hometown team from media and fans.

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"You hear about it but until you go through it I don’t think you really understand what’s happening and what’s happening behind those doors," said Marner. "That was the main thing, is just keeping my mind clear. Not listening to any outside noise.

"No one really knows what was actually going on inside the negotiations. All that speculation draws a lot of attention to the fans."

Marner said he sought some refuge at the lake whenever he could.

Having that weight lifted seems to have put him in a good frame of mind these last couple days. He received a fantastic contract — one that has already paid him a monster $15.3-million (U.S.) signing bonus — and now he’s back to doing what he loves, free of any business concerns.

"Just being here and being a hockey player," said coach Mike Babcock. "When you’re doing the business side of things and you’re not a businessman, you don’t like it very much. It’s not easy for anybody. We’re pumped he’s here. He gets the weight off his back, gets going, and feeling good about himself and going from there."

Marner was raised as a Leafs fan and has been a member of the organization since getting drafted fourth overall in 2015. From his end of things, the offer sheet route was not something that held much appeal.

"I kind of turned it down right away," he said. "I never really thought about it too much in my head, I kind of got rid of it. Just the whole kind of waiting part [was difficult], and seeing what’s going to happen. That’s kind of the part where you’re just sitting at home and you keep hearing the discussions between the two.

"That’s why I think me and Kyle met. Kind of clear the air and make sure that we’re talking to each other. We got it figured out."

As a result, Marner didn’t miss any of the important preparation time like William Nylander did a year ago. In fact, he’s expected to play Tuesday’s pre-season opener against Ottawa here at Mile One Centre.

There was a chance he could have gone elsewhere, but his heart remained in Toronto.

"Since Day 1, I’ve been super happy to be here and it’s been great," said Marner. "Now I’m happy that we got that deal done, we can get to work now. This team’s together for awhile so we’ve got to make sure those years we make ‘em work."

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