The NHL's marquee restricted free agency saga has come to an end. Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs reached a six-year extension worth more than $65 million on Friday, bringing an end to a roller coaster ride that has dragged on for months.
The new deal carries an average annual value and salary cap hit of $10.893 million, making Marner the second-highest paid winger in the NHL straight off of his entry-level contract. He trails only Artemi Panarin, who signed a seven-year, $81.5 million deal ($11.6 million AAV) with the New York Rangers in July.
Marner, 22, was a first-round pick (fourth overall) of the Leafs in 2015 and has developed into an elite two-way piece for Toronto on the wing. He has increased his offensive production in each of his three NHL seasons. The addition of free agent signing John Tavares likely helped spike Marner's offensive numbers in Toronto last season, as he posted a career-high in goals (26), assists (68) and points (94). He finished 11th in scoring in the league last season, fifth among wingers.
The 25-point bump he saw playing alongside Tavares has helped Marner cash in big this offseason, though the negotiations reportedly got pretty bumpy at times. There was little progress made throughout the summer months as Marner's camp seemed intent on seeking a payday similar to the one Auston Matthews got (five years, $11.6 million AAV) in February.
With the Leafs in a bit of a cap jam, general manager Kyle Dubas had to work to free up money and get to a number that would both suit the interests of the team and Marner. It was reported this week that the winger turned down seven and eight-year offers that carried an AAV of around $11 million, leading to the negotiation process turning "tense and personal."
However, talks apparently picked up on Friday before Marner ultimately accepted the six-year deal, which sets him up rather nicely for another chance to cash in on a big-money deal around his age-28 season.
Although he won't quite match Matthews' annual payout, that's still a rich deal for Marner -- one that could potentially be classified as an overpayment. However, the Leafs get to retain one of their most promising young players long term, avoid carrying the headache of a holdout into the season (something they're very familiar with after last year's William Nylander drama) and move forward as they look to contend for a Stanley Cup this season.