Maple Leafs contract negotiation updates: Marner, Bertuzzi, Domi

Mike Armenti
April 1, 2024  (1:46 PM)

Tyler Bertuzzi putting in work on the forecheck for the Maple Leafs
Photo credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

With Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving opening up his cheque-book for Bobby McMann and Simon Benoit in recent weeks, there have been a lot of questions floating around about the futures of Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi.

There has been a lot of discussion throughout the past week, in light of the recent extension announcements for McMann and Benoit, over what might happen with the likes of Bertuzzi and Domi, who have become two very important players for the Leafs during the second half of the 2023-24 season. Both Bertuzzi and Domi are pending unrestricted free agents and, if they do make it to market, both will be sought-after after. Mitch Marner is still a year and a couple months away from unrestricted free agency himself, but he will be eligible to sign an extension on July 1st. This is shaping up to be a huge summer for the Maple Leafs.
This past August, Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs shocked the hockey world when they announced that they had agreed to terms on a 4-year contract extension worth a total of $53M, making Matthews the highest paid player in the National Hockey League. Matthews' $13.25M AAV is lofty, but he's showing once again this season why he's worth every penny.
Matthews scored his 60th goal of the season on Saturday night in Buffalo, giving him two 60-goal seasons in a 3-year span, and judging by the way he's playing and how he's scoring these goals, it's probably not the last 60-goal season of his career either.
On the most recent edition of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek spoke very highly of Matthews and his unparalleled goal scoring prowess. Both reporters appear to be firm on their stance that, even if Alex Ovechkin surpasses Wayne Gretzky's 894 goals, setting a new NHL goal scoring record, the conversation will then shift to how long Ovechkin holds the record, as Matthews is already out-pacing Ovechkin and is likely to go down as the all-time goal scoring leader by the time he hangs up his skates.
"We're going through a goal chase right now, watching Ovechkin [pursuing Wayne Gretzky's record], but it isn't going to be too long until we're going through another one with Matthews. That, to me, is an absolutely insane stat. It's not going to be too long that we're all going to be watch Matthews chase, whether it's Gretzky or it's Ovechkin, as the number one goal scorer of all-time.

The other thing is, in his interviews... he kind of downplays it, but all you have to see is the reaction on the ice to know how much it matters to him. He was not leaving that shift without scoring that goal, and the officials robbed us of #61 when they threw out all 10 guys on the ice with misconducts in the last minute of regulation."
- Elliotte Friedman on Matthews likely going to go down as the NHL's all-time goal scoring leader by the end of his career

How will the Leafs ensure that Matthews continues to receive plenty of scoring opportunities?

Friedman and Marek discussed the idea that the Leafs will have to take a similar approach to the one Washington took with Ovechkin in his prime. They'll need to surround Matthews with people who can feed him the puck in those dangerous scoring areas. Thankfully, they already have that with Mitch Marner, one of the game's elite young playmakers.
With Marner coming due for a contract extension this summer, the big question on everyone's minds is whether or not Marner will follow suit with Matthews and get his deal done a year ahead of time, or will he play out the final year of his deal and posture for the best possible payday as the cap continues to rise? Friedman told listeners on Monday that the plan from Toronto's standpoint is to lock Marner up for as long as they can with the knowledge that he and Matthews want to play together for a long, long time.
"I do think it's their goal to keep Marner. I don't have any doubt. I think they know Marner and Matthews want to play with each other. I believe that's been a conversation in the past, where Matthews has made it very clear that he wants to play with Marner and Marner has made it clear that he's happy to do it and, look, at the end of he day, there's still going to be a negotiation. We'll see where that goes and we're going to punt that to the summer, because they're not going to do that now, but I absolutely believe their long-distance plan is to keep them together for a long time."

Looking for an update on where things stand with Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi?

Friedman spent a good chunk of the podcast talking about the Maple Leafs, so of course, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi also came up. He told listeners on Monday that he was being inundated with questions about Domi and Bertuzzi following the extension announcements for McMann and Benoit in recent weeks. Unfortunately, Friedman's response wasn't what fans want to hear.
"Before we turn the page on the Leafs... I looked into it, and it doesn't sound like those [contract talks] are active right now. Domi and Bertuzzi are probably bigger deals, so those other ones are easy to do right now, and it's great for both [Bobby McMann and Simon Benoit].

I don't think there's anything close on Domi or Bertuzzi."

Of these two feisty forwards, Domi appears most likely to be willing to take less money to remain a Leaf, but with how well he has played this season, even less money might be more than the $3M that he makes now. Domi has already expressed his interest of remaining a Leaf well beyond this season, and he did so very publicly. If the Leafs like the player enough, perhaps Treliving and Domi's representatives can come to terms on a deal that gives him some security in terms of a multi-year deal that carries a couple of extra years of term in exchange for a lower AAV.
Bertuzzi, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. He hasn't gone public with his desire to remain a Leaf beyond this season, and while he clearly loves being a Leaf at the moment, the money may end up doing the talking in the summer. Bertuzzi was reportedly looking for a multi-year deal this past summer, with an AAV well over the $5M mark, eventually settling on a 1-year deal in Toronto worth $5.5M this season.
Bertuzzi's slow start had many Leaf fans wondering if the fit just wasn't a good one in Toronto, but since February, Bertuzzi has been scoring at a ridiculous pace for the Leafs, bringing his season totals up considerably. After scoring just 6 goals in his first 51 games, the 29-year-old winger has added 12 goals in his last 20 games, putting a 20-goal season well within striking distance.
What these two players do in the playoffs is likely going to play a key role in what they ask for in contract negotiations this spring/summer. However, from the Leafs' perspective, I'm sure they'll negotiate from a stance of season-long production as well, which has remained relatively low for both players - likely lower than originally anticipated. Bertuzzi's 37 points puts him well below his career points per game average of .64 points per game while Domi's 41 points are slightly better, but still lower than his career average of .62 points per game as well. Going by their career averages, both Bertuzzi and Domi should be at around 45 points through 71 and 73 games, respectively.
With the salary cap expected to rise considerably this summer and continue to rise beyond next season, the Leafs' cap situation will only improve over time, especially with John Tavares' $11M cap hit expected to come off the books in the summer of 2025. However, the money isn't endless, and if Bertuzzi and Domi command too much with the threat of going to the open market lingering, that could present a real challenge for the Leafs with the Matthews and Nylander deals coming into effect next season, and the upcoming Marner deal coming into effect in 2025-26.
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Maple Leafs contract negotiation updates: Marner, Bertuzzi, Domi

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