Mitch Marner has played above the value of his contract this season; is he a top-5 NHL player?

Published April 12, 2022 at 10:39
BY MIKE ARMENTI
When Mitch Marner signed his $65M mega deal coming out of his entry-level contract, a lot of hockey fans had vilified the young winger for taking the Leafs to the cleaners rather than taking a bit of a hometown discount to ensure that the Leafs had money to spend in other areas.

The reality of the situation was that Marner was coming off of a 94-point season and appeared to be an elite winger in the making. He simply bet on himself and what he and his agent Darren Ferris thought that his market value would be in the middle of his contract. Well, we're seeing now that Marner's decision to pursue a fair deal was a good one.

The salary cap has certainly complicated things for teams who are spending to the cap to try to contend. We saw it with the Tampa Bay Lightning, we saw it with the Washington Capitals and, of course, we're seeing it with the Leafs. Credit to Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and company for being able to find savings elsewhere in the lineup to allow for his star players to make market value and still remaining competitive - Michael Bunting is a prime example.

I don't think anyone can deny the fact that Mitch Marner is playing on another level right now. He has outproduced everyone in the National Hockey League since January 1st. That includes McDavid, MacKinnon, Kucherov, all of the guys who are looked at as the top guys in the league. His line, alongside Auston Matthews and Michael Bunting, is the best line in hockey over the last few months, and you know what? Good on Mitch. He's taken a beating in the media and from the fanbase since signing that deal, and it's nice to see him living up to it and making everyone eat their words. It's even nicer to see people coming around and acknowledging him for the superstar that he is.


At this point, the question needs to be asked; is Mitch Marner a top-5 player in the NHL? Well, according to The Athletic's Dom Luszyczyszyn's player cards, he is. With Dom's model, the only players ahead of Marner in terms of market value are Auston Matthews, Cale Makar, Connor McDavid and Brad Marchand.


Now, of course, the obvious pushback here is going to be "but he hasn't done anything in the playoffs". Yes, that's true. However, Marner is 24 years old and has just entered his prime years. He's learned valuable lessons over the past few seasons and the disappointments that came at the most important time of the year.

The Mitch Marner that we're seeing now is not the Mitch Marner that came up short in the 2020-21 postseason matchup against the Habs. This version of Marner is hungrier, smarter, more patient and he's playing with an increased intensity that we have not seen from him in his NHL career. Not only that, but he's found another level in his game that allows him to be even more productive. From a guy who has mutliple seasons at a 90+ point pace, that's pretty incredible.

Ultimately, Marner has a lot to prove to, not only his team and the fan base when the 2022 playoffs begin, but also to himself. I think we're going to see a much more dominant Mitch Marner when the games really start to matter in May.
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