The key to winning a Mitch Marner trade actually may involve a top UFA

Nick Matthews
May 11, 2024  (3:36 PM)

Mitch Marner
Photo credit: Sportsnet

There has been a tremendous amount of Mitch Marner trade buzz in Toronto since the first round exit last week, with many wanting to see him traded this summer.

The question that comes to mind is, how can you replace someone as talented as Marner? Well in short, you can't. Marner is a unique type of player. As talented as he is offensively, he's equally talented defensively as well.
Mitch Marner may be a tantalizing talent with smooth skills, high level hockey IQ and nifty passes, but throughout his tenure in Toronto, it has been clear that his skill set does not translate well come playoff time. For a close to $11M cap hit, that is simply not good enough.

A Mitch Marner trade is complicated, but the Leafs may be able to successfully revamp their core if they think a little more creatively

Winning a Mitch Marner trade isn't an easy task. The Leafs are not going to deal Marner and come away with a better player in the deal. However, there's one intriguing option available to the Leafs that wouldn't involve a star-for-star swap involving Mitch Marner. Check out this tweet from @InsideLeafs:
If the Leafs really want to shake things up, don't trade Marner for another big name. Trade him for a quality young D still on an ELC, plus a couple of 1st round picks and a young C prospect. Then, use the cap space to sign Jake Guentzel this summer. Guentzel is an absolute dawg.

It's changing the look now AND improving for the future.

In this sense, it wouldn't be about "winning the trade" for Marner. It would be about the Leafs getting back young assets, and replenishing some draft capital which is an intriguing idea - provided Guentzel would be willing to sign in Toronto.
Guentzel would be an incredible add for the Leafs. He may not be as flashy or get as many points as Marner, but Guentzel is a proven playoff performer with a winning pedigree, which includes two Stanley Cup rings.
Guentzel is more of a sniper than a playmaker, but maybe that's what the Leafs actually need - a shooting threat outside of Auston Matthews and William Nylander.
The former Pittsburgh Penguin would be the perfect addition for the Leafs and he will come at a much lower price than Marner, who is eligible to sign an extension this summer.
Guentzel, a former two-time 40-goal scorer who may have hit that mark more than twice were it not for two COVID-19 shortened seasons, is not likely to exceed the $8M-$9M threshold, whereas Marner is almost certainly going to exceed $12M per season on his extension. That extra $3M-$4M could go a long way in helping the Leafs to address other roster needs.
If the Leafs were to deal Marner for picks and prospects, they could then potentially look to trade down with one of those 1st round draft picks to acquire more draft picks for the 2024 and 2025 drafts, which would be vitally important for a team who has just 4 picks inside of the first 4 rounds across the next 3 drafts combined.
This would be the perfect scenario for the Leafs as they would get a proven playoff type player at a much lower cap hit and a bunch of picks and prospects from a Marner cap dump.
The only caveats here would be whether or not Marner would be willing to waive his full no-movement clause to help the Leafs complete such a deal to set them up for success now and in the future, and whether Guentzel would be amenable to signing with the Maple Leafs this summer.
11 MAI   |   914 ANSWERS
The key to winning a Mitch Marner trade actually may involve a top UFA

If the Leafs traded Mitch Marner for picks and prospects in a cap dump and then signed Jake Guentzel as a UFA, would that make the team better or worse?

Better, 100%31434.4 %
Worse. Guentzel isn't as good as Marner28531.2 %
It would make them different. I'd welcome it.31534.5 %
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