Reputable reporter reveals the perfect Mitch Marner trade

Mike Armenti
April 29, 2024  (9:51)

Mitch Marner
Photo credit: USA Today Sports

After an abysmal effort against the Boston Bruins in Round 1, Mitch Marner is taking a lot of heat for the Maple Leafs and a trade may be the best remaining option.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman made waves this week when he reported that a trade involving Mitch Marner was not off the table this summer. This has led to a lot of speculation over what a proper Marner trade might look like.
Some who have discussed the idea at length believe the Leafs should look for a package of picks and prospects. Others think the Leafs should use Marner as a trade chip to shore up the D or goaltending. However, ESPN's Greg Wyshynski has my vote for my favourite trade proposal yet.
Wyshynski tweeted out on Sunday that "a very smart hockey person" had mentioned the idea of sending Marner to Utah for Clayton Keller. Such a deal would make sense for a myriad of reasons.
Marner happens to be one of Auston Matthews, best friends. Moving him would certainly impact #34 negatively in a lot of ways. However, do you know who Matthews is also very close with? Clayton Keller.
Matthews and Keller have been good friends since they played together in the USHL back in 2014-15. They were drafted 6 spots apart in 2016, with Matthews going 1st overall and Keller going to Arizona at 7th overall. Naturally, with Keller landing in Arizona, the two were able to remain in close contact for the last 8 years.
During this year's All-Star Draft in Toronto, Matthews selected both William Nylander and Mitch Marner with his first two picks. Can you guess who his very next pick was? It was Keller, who appeared thrilled to be teaming up with one of his best buds. I'd imagine if a Marner for Keller deal were to materialize, Keller would be excited to have the opportunity to play with Matthews.
Why would a Keller for Marner deal help the Leafs? Well, for one, it would save them a boat load of cap space. Marner makes $10.9M against the cap now and is likely to earn north of $12M-$13M on his next deal, which he will become eligible to sign on July 1st. We've already established that this Core 4 can't win together when it matters. They aren't suddenly going to start winning together with even more cap dollars committed to them and less to go around.
Keller's modest $7.15M cap hit would clear $3.75M off the books, enabling the Leafs to pursue another very good player to fill an area of need, such as on the blueline or in goal. It cannot be overstated how important that would be for a franchise that has lacked balance for years. Keller is also signed through 2027-28, which lines up perfectly with Matthews' new 4-year extension.
Another reason why it may make sense is that the new team in Utah would likely love to make a major splash to bring in a big name before their first season begins. Marner is certainly a big name. Ryan Smith, also the owner of the Utah Jazz, has deep pockets and could definitely afford to spend a little closer to the cap than the Arizona Coyotes could.
In terms of the drop off from Marner to Keller, it may seem steep. However, it's really not as steep as some perceive it to be. Keller produced 86 points in 82 games in 2022-23, while Marner produced 99 points in 80 games for the Leafs in that same season. The difference is, Marner put up his points saddled up next to Matthews, while Keller produced only 13 points less on his own on a bottom-feeder in Arizona.
Yes, there's the little matter of Marner owning a full no-movement clause to consider, but teams move players with NMC's every season. It's not impossible to do. The main issue would be getting fair value for a player like Marner with a NMC working against you, value-wise. When a player controls his own fate, a fair deal is a lot tougher to come by.
At any rate, this one is as interesting a proposition as you'll find. Of course, until we know how this first round plays out and what happens with the Leafs' front office if it all goes sideways, this is all just hypothetical.
29 AVRIL   |   757 ANSWERS
Reputable reporter reveals the perfect Mitch Marner trade

Would you do a Mitch Marner for Clayton Keller trade if you were the Leafs?

In a heartbeat31741.9 %
No, Marner is the better player23130.5 %
I'm on the fence20927.6 %
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