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There's a Mitch Marner trade that could make a ton of sense for the Leafs AND save them some cap space

Published May 31, 2023 at 11:19
BY MIKE ARMENTI

Since September of 2019, when Mitch Marner infamously raked the Leafs' feet over the coals during his tumultuous contract negotiations, fans have had a hard time showing love and support for the player. Marner has been one of the most-criticized members of the team in recent years and for good reason. Marner makes $10.9M per season and has seemingly vanished in the playoffs year after year in elimination games.

When the Leafs washed out against Florida in Round 2 this year, Marner's name was one of the first to be dragged through the mud for failing to elevate his game when it mattered most. Fans have wanted him traded for the last couple of seasons, but the problem is, you lose almost any trade involving Marner. There are a few deals, however, where the Leafs could likely bring back a quality player and some peripheral pieces and not be absolutely fleeced in the deal.

Marner's name has been connected to the Carolina Hurricanes in trade rumours already this offseason, but there's another team that might make some sense for Marner, as one fan points out. The New York Islanders.

The Isles just completed a trade this year to bring ex-Canucks captain Bo Horvat to the island. The problem is that the Isles don't necessarily have any elite talent on the wing to play alongside Horvat. Well, Marner is certainly that and with the Leafs perhaps viewing a core shake-up as a necessity, there exists a possibility to land a pretty dynamic center, who happens to be signed through 2029-30 at a lower AAV than Marner. I am, of course, talking about Mat Barzal.


A fan who goes by @b1rky on Twitter proposed the idea on Wednesday, and it's hard to find any fault in a deal centered around Marner for Barzal +. Bringing in Barzal would allow the Leafs to shift Tavares over to the wing full-time next season and because the Leafs have Auston Matthews on the top line, it would allow Barzal to play some softer matchups as the team's 2nd line center.

It's tough to imagine exactly what the Isles would have to add to Barzal to balance out the deal. Barzal has been a point-per-game player just once in his career, back in 2017-18 when he had 85 points in 82 games. He carries a $9.15M AAV. Meanwhile, Marner, who makes $10.9M per season, has been better than a point-per-game in each of the last 5 seasons. The Leafs could benefit from another shooting threat on the blueline.

Would the Isles consider a Marner/Liljegren for Barzal/Dobson trade? It's certainly close in terms of overall value. Liljegren still has some upside before he reaches his ceiling and Marner's value exceeds that of Barzal. Dobson is an effective offensive defenseman who has 49 and 51 points in back-to-back seasons, who is signed for two more years at a very affordable $4M AAV. The only real problem there is that such a deal has the Leafs spending $13.15M on Barzal and Dobson, while Marner and Liljegren combine for just $12.3M.

If the Leafs want to make a swap and settle for Barzal and a draft pick or two, they'll be able to save themselves $1.75M per season for the next two years and will not get significantly worse because of it, save for maybe on the penalty kill, where Marner has been excellent. The Islanders don't have their 1st round pick this year, as it was dealt to Vancouver in the Horvat deal. They do, however, have their 1st rounders in each of the next two years plus this year's 2nd round pick and those of the 2 seasons that follow.

Could Marner for Barzal and a 2024 1st round pick be considered a fair deal? How about Marner for Barzal and two 2nd round picks? Honestly, this is a tough one, but if the Leafs are intent on shaking up the core, nabbing a player like Mat Barzal could certainly provide them with some stability up the middle for the next 8 years.

POLL
May 31   |   227 answers
There's a Mitch Marner trade that could make a ton of sense for the Leafs AND save them some cap space

If you were the Leafs' GM, would you consider a deal surrounding Mitch Marner for Mat Barzal +?

Absolutely6930.4 %
Not a chance15869.6 %
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