A detail about the Mitch Marner contract that many people seem to forget

Dean Chaudhry
June 6, 2024  (4:08 PM)

Mitch Marner stick handling his way through the neutral zone with a few Nashville Predators' on his tail
Photo credit: Nick Turchiano - USA Today Sports

Often forgotten is that the Toronto Maple Leafs extended their core with the salary cap in line for a massive rise that only a worldwide pandemic could have destroyed.

The salary cap increased from $75 million during the 2017-18 season to $79.5 million ahead of the 2018-19 season. Then it increased to $81.5 million for the 2019-20 season and it was expected to rise to anywhere between $84 million to $88 million for the 2020-21 campaign and then above the $90M threshold the season after that.
In other words, the NHL was finally booming financially, they were in line for a massive TV deal and other sponsorships, and after years of a very low salary cap, we were about to usher into a new era.
The only thing that could have quelled their momentum was an unforeseen worldwide pandemic and the unfortunate part about all of that is that several teams started doling out large and hefty contracts with their eyes set on the rising cap - including the Maple Leafs.
In the summer of 2018 the Leafs signed John Tavares to his 7-year deal worth $77 million, and 7 months later they extended Auston Matthews mid-season to his 5-year deal worth $11.64 million per season. Then, in the ensuing summer, they inked Mitch Marner to his mammoth contract. With agents, players, and front offices ogling the rising cap, these deals weren't believed to be as egregious as they are now.
Everything took a turn for the worse when the pandemic crippled the league and had teams operating on a stagnant salary cap of $81.5 million. All the NHL clubs that were planning for the future were put in disarray and the cap not only dropped, but it didn't really budge all that much until recently. The Maple Leafs did a good enough job to work around their high priced contracts but it definitely stunted their chances of building a winning team.
While many believe that Dubas didn't really put up a fight against either of his young players coming out of their ELCs and that acquiring Tavares was unnecessary, it's still very hard to pin the tail on that donkey when nothing short of a pandemic could have thwarted these plans.
At the time when Marner signed his contract, it was definitely a bit of an overpayment, but with how much superstars have been paid between 2019 and 2023, his deal would be seen as a fair market-value deal had the salary cap not stagnated.
Fast forward 4 years later and with the Marner situation souring with every turn, there's a lot more scrutiny, hindsight bias, and disdain being pivoted towards him and the deal he signed under Dubas' watch.
Signing Tavares might not have been needed either and that amount of money could have been used elsewhere like on defence or goaltending, but with the cap expected to be in the $90 million range, the Leafs were positioned very well to splurge a little on the offensive side - until the world changed right before their eyes.
Obviously, looking at everything now, it's easy to look back and point the finger and say "it was a flawed concept". However, the reality is that if the pandemic hadn't disrupted the flow of the world during that time, we're probably looking back at these deals very differently, especially with what it could have meant for the Maple Leafs over the last few years in terms of both UFA spending ability and deadline spending ability.
Source for Marner contract details: Sportsnet
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs agree to new six-year contract
6 JUIN   |   422 ANSWERS
A detail about the Mitch Marner contract that many people seem to forget

Do you think it's justified to blame Kyle Dubas for the salaries he handed out to the core players immediately before the pandemic?

Yes, they were all overpayments to begin with32978 %
No, the stagnant cap should be to blame9322 %
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