The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to run into salary cap issues and team president Brendan Shanahan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“When we’re not dealing with cap issues we’re probably rebuilding,” Shanahan said Tuesday during an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Prime Time Sports.
Among the team’s top off-season priorities, according to general manager Kyle Dubas, is reaching an agreement on a new contract with pending restricted free agent Mitch Marner.
It appears the two sides are still in the early stages of negotiations but Shanahan said he had a positive meeting with Marner’s agent on Tuesday.
“I have a lot of respect for Darren Ferris,” Shanahan explained. “Obviously, our admiration for Mitch and how he plays the game and how he evolved this year and how he developed, rounded out his game and added, not even just his offensive creativity and prowess but penalty killing and just his overall game has improved so much, so it was a positive meeting.
“Beyond that, you’re not going to hear anything from Kyle and I or Mitch’s camp. … There’s no point in playing this out through the press.”
Marner led the Maple Leafs with 68 assists and 94 points this past season and since entering the league in 2016-17 his 224 points is most among Leafs players and 22nd among all NHLers. In all likelihood, Marner, who turned 22 earlier this month, has done enough to warrant an annual cap hit in excess of $10 million.
Defencemen Jake Gardiner, Ron Hainsey, Martin Marincin and forward Tyler Ennis are all coming off the books this summer, but fitting Marner comfortably under the cap will still be a challenge – especially considering RFA wingers Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson also need new deals.
Auston Matthews signed a five-year deal worth an average of $11.634 million per year that kicks in at the start of next season. John Tavares and his $11 million AAV are locked in until 2025, while William Nylander’s AAV of slightly less than $7 million complicates the team’s cap situation further.
Shanahan was being interviewed because earlier in the day it was announced he had signed a six-year contract extension himself.
When the 50-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer first joined the Maple Leafs organization in April 2014, he had a completely different set of problems to address. Consider this: the team hadn’t yet drafted Nylander, Marner or Matthews, Tavares was on Long Island, Mike Babcock was in Detroit and Dubas was still a GM in the OHL.
“The better you become, the less peaceful it is, the more anxiety there is, because each decision means more and so you still have problems,” Shanahan added. “They’re just better problems. …
“As long as we are hopefully a Stanley Cup contender we will have cap issues, so Toronto should get used to that.”