Maple Leafs Need New Negotiating Strategy for Marner

In a latest episode of his32 Thoughts” podcast, the ever-insightful Elliotte Friedman couldn’t resist injecting a contact of humor into the dialogue surrounding Mitch Marner and his upcoming contract negotiations. With Auston Matthews‘ $11.634 million AAV deal now in the rearview mirror (he signed it in February 2019), Friedman playfully pondered Marner’s potential contract quantity.

With an enormous trace of tongue-in-cheek (and even maybe a little bit of cynicism), Friedman requested, “What is Marner’s next number? Because he was the closest one to Matthews. When Matthews signed for $11.634 AAV, all of a sudden Marner became close to an $11 million player, so now Matthews’ number is 13.25. What’s Marner’s number? Is it 13.249999?”

Negotiating Salaries for Star Players Is Complex

Friedman’s witty tackle the scenario provides a little bit of levity to the continuing contract discussions. However, it additionally highlights the complexities and nuances of NHL wage negotiations. 

Related: 3 Biggest Trades in Red Wings History

[As an aside, for anyone wanting a solid read in non-academic language in an academic journal written by a former player agent, the link offers some interesting insight into contract negotiations. It’s a good read. David B. Falk (1992), The Art of Contract Negotiation, Marquette Sports Law Review, 3(1), Article 4.]

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Negotiating with star gamers within the NHL will be complicated and delicate. One of the Maple Leafs’ most distinguished stars, Marner, is a selected living proof. He deserves an excellent contract from the crew, however what would that contract seem like?

What Is a Good Contract?

Contracts usually are not nearly how good a participant is. In addition, contracts in skilled sports activities additionally attend to the idea of honest market worth inside the context of the negotiations (on this case, NHL contracts completed within the salary-cap period). In skilled sports activities, these two understandings (high quality of efficiency and honest market worth) assist each negotiating events work to make sure honest compensation, mutual respect, and transparency between the group, the participant, and the followers as properly. 

The definition of a “good contract” is that it’s honest for each side. The finest negotiations additionally comply with sincere and clear methods based mostly on mutual consideration and respect. It can be good to count on such when the Maple Leafs and Marner’s crew sit down to speak.

Related: Revisiting Maple Leafs & Marner’s 2019 Contract Negotiations

In working towards this technique, it’s higher to undertake a negotiation technique that doesn’t depart a nasty style in anybody’s mouth. In my opinion, that was not the case over the past negotiations accomplished between the Maple Leafs and Marner in 2019. 

Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Because these negotiations labored for Marner – in that, Marner acquired principally what his crew needed within the negotiations – there’s little motive to consider issues will probably be totally different this time. That reality was not misplaced on Friedman, which I famous once I began this publish.

The Maple Leafs History Negotiating with Mitch Marner

Here I need to rapidly revisit (I admit that is my take) the contract negotiations between Marner and the Maple Leafs. In my thoughts, the method formed Marner’s picture amongst followers and his relationship with the crew. 

Point One: Marner Came to the 2019 Negotiations With Status

When Marner entered his first negotiations, he carried the standing of preliminary success. He was extremely regarded by followers when he joined the Maple Leafs, and he had completed little to decrease that standing. Over his first seasons on his entry-level contract (ELC), he showcased his expertise and potential for greatness. Over these preliminary seasons, his sport continued to develop and he was rightfully thought of a worthwhile asset to the crew each offensively and defensively. 

Point Two: Marner Became a Polarizing Figure During The Negotiations

Despite his on-ice success, Marner polarized followers throughout contract negotiations in 2019. Some followers even started to query his worth to the crew. From my perspective, it has taken time him years to regain his constructive standing, however he’s achieved that with most followers. Sadly, different followers haven’t forgotten and nonetheless would love him pushed out of city.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The downside for me was Marner’s agent’s (Darren Ferris) negotiating technique. Ferris employed a technique that positioned himself and his shopper (Marner) in a powerful negotiating place. However, in doing so, he soured Marner’s picture with followers. His technique included publicly difficult the crew’s dedication to Marner and suggesting that Marner would play in Switzerland if he didn’t get extra money.

Point Three: Over the Past Seasons Marner’s Image Has Improved

Over time, Marner has rehabilitated his picture. Like him or not, he’s an awesome hockey participant. His latest performances have helped. However, not all followers have been gained over.

Related: Ex-Maple Leafs Goalie Michael Hutchinson: Where’s He Now?

Marner’s relationship with followers stays a piece in progress, and his future efficiency each on and off the ice would possibly decide whether or not he totally regains their belief and his standing. Ironically, given his affability as an individual (he’s in the course of each celebration and his charity work is notable), a popular and revered Marner can be a boon to Leafs Nation.

Point Four: Marner Missed a Chance to Solidify His Legacy

If Matthews’ latest contract negotiations function a lesson, it might be that any tempestuous relationships between negotiating events be stored behind closed doorways. Matthews will change into the very best NHL participant when his contract comes into play within the 2024-25 season. Yet, the aftermath of the deal is sitting fairly properly with the general public. In reality, each Maple Leafs basic supervisor (GM) Brad Treliving and Matthews appear to be resonating properly with followers. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The constructed narrative was one in all cooperation and crew dedication. These are values that followers respect – as they need to.

After Matthews Contract Extension, What Is Fair Market Value for Marner?

Matthews’ latest four-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs is now within the books. It will make him the NHL’s highest-earning participant from the 2024-25 season at $13.25 million per year. Clearly, that contract has ripple results on his teammates, notably Marner and William Nylander. 

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Because Marner is thought for his powerful negotiations up to now, that places stress on Treliving because the crew’s present GM (because it did for Dubas up to now). The upcoming offseason is predicted to deliver related negotiation ways from Marner’s crew. As famous, Friedman already anticipated the “fun” beginning with the negotiations. Given Matthews’ new deal, Marner’s quantity is alleged to be not less than $13 million yearly.

Whatever Marner’s subsequent deal may be, it’s anticipated to be profitable. Based on Marner’s final negotiations, the dynamics of the method are additionally anticipated to be tough. My query is: Is there a greater means?

In the remainder of this publish, I’ll speculate one other path the Maple Leafs would possibly comply with. In this, I’m not taking both aspect of the argument. I hope that contracts reward gamers for the standard of their play in addition to signify honest market worth. What I do want to get rid of is the form of public posturing that calls into query the opposite aspect’s intentions. 

We all know what’s happening right here and theoretically the way it works, however I’d positive like to discover a option to get rid of the negativity – each rapid and lasting.

A Strategic Play for Dealing with Marner’s Upcoming Negotiations

Here’s what I feel may very well be an affordable 10-step course of that values each side on this course of.

Step One: The Maple Leafs Should Define a Fair (Even Generous) Offer

First, assuming that Marner is needed on the crew, the Maple Leafs ought to start by figuring out what a good and (even) beneficiant supply for his providers can be. Invite Marner’s crew to current what they consider is an affordable request. This request needs to be taken severely and will function a basis for inner discussions and for future negotiations.

Step Two: Spend Time Deciding Internally What the Team’s Offer to Marner Will Be

Spend due diligence in discussions about Marner and what the fitting supply is for the crew. It needs to be based mostly on the standard of his efficiency, honest market worth (contemplating comparables), and the salary-cap context. As famous, it needs to be a good and even beneficiant supply.

Step Three: Publicly Disclose the Offer

Inform Marner and his agent of the provided quantity upfront and invite them to just accept it. Emphasize that this quantity won’t be topic to additional negotiation at the moment or till the 2024-25 season is accomplished. 

Brad Treliving Toronto Maple Leafs
Brad Treliving, Toronto Maple Leafs (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star through Getty Images)

If Marner’s crew accepts the supply, all’s properly and good. Sign and announce. If they don’t, make the provided quantity and phrases public. At the identical time, be clear in regards to the crew’s stance on negotiations. Note that the group has advised Marner’s crew that there will probably be no additional negotiations till Marner has accomplished taking part in the ultimate season on his contract. Clearly talk to the general public that that is the crew’s remaining supply till after the season.

My guess is that Marner’s aspect will attempt to problem these phrases. But the group mustn’t blink regardless of any posturing, or different public discourse, or persuasive makes an attempt. 

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In mild of those, proceed to speak the group’s stance and willingness to signal at any time. But the secret is to be silent within the face of what comes and to stay agency within the crew’s place.

Step Five: Continue to Maintain Silence

Perhaps this shouldn’t be the identical step twice, however it would take an act of the desire to not reply within the face of exterior challenges, both from Marner’s crew, the media, or maybe public stress.

The two “Rs” – stay (silent) and reiterate (the group’s contract phrases) would come into play.

Step Six: Allow Marner’s Contract to Expire

If Marner doesn’t signal the provided contract, let him play out his present contract with out additional negotiations. When his 2024-24 season is within the document books, internally revisit the contract and make any changes referred to as for by Marner’s success or failure over the season. 

Step Seven: Adjust Based on Performance 

Adjust the contract numbers provided based mostly on Marner’s efficiency throughout his contract yr and different contextual components just like the wage cap.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Marner has a monster season, maybe the numbers needs to be upped. If he has a poor season, maybe the numbers ought to fall. If he has his common season (of nice play, by the best way), they’ll stand agency.

Step Eight: Allow Marner’s Team to Submit Another Contract Offer 

Allow Marner and his agent to submit their contract supply, and consider it objectively earlier than accepting or rejecting that supply.

Step Nine: Invite Marner to Test the Market

Present once more the numbers determined by the group, and provides Marner an opportunity to signal at the moment. If he doesn’t, enable him to check the free-agent market. 

Step Ten: Allow Other Teams to Offer Contracts

If different groups will meet Marner’s monetary contract calls for and he needs to go away Toronto, want him properly and let him go. Spend the cash the group would have spent on his wage on free brokers and construct your crew round Matthews and the remaining gamers.

Considering the Assumptions and the Impact

Who is aware of what is going to transpire? The onus now rests with Marner to resolve his profession path. Can one assume he gained’t discover a comparable wage with one other crew? Or, can one assume that, though the wage won’t be greater, the providing crew isn’t engaging sufficient (for one motive or one other) for him to make a transfer?  

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Although Marner is a superb participant, one other crew won’t discover his contract calls for match into their salary-cap construction or their finances. At the identical time, maybe Marner would take into account the worth of his attachment to Toronto and his need to play alongside Matthews or others. As I say, who is aware of?

The best-case situation can be that Marner is obtainable extra money with one other crew, however he decides to remain in Toronto for much less. If so, his choice might change into heroic. It would possibly cement his loyalty to the crew and his unselfish nature. Both the group and Marner might flip this right into a win-win scenario.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, these negotiation methods hope to reshape how enterprise is carried out inside the Maple Leafs group. Fairness, transparency, honesty, and fairness needs to be guiding ideas when coping with all gamers, however particularly with star gamers like Marner. 

By adopting such approaches, the crew may help guarantee gamers obtain honest compensation and preserve constructive relationships with the crew and followers.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Obviously, any technique might additionally blow up within the faces of each side. If the Maple Leafs supply too little, Marner can be embarrassed and the followers might activate the crew for not providing the hometown Marner an affordable contract. If Marner’s aspect complains an excessive amount of or too publicly, followers would possibly come to view him as egocentric.

Dangers and dangers are inherent in any technique in the case of one thing as private as an individual’s livelihood, standing, and worth. However, maybe far worse risks had been on the horizon if the Maple Leafs group allowed the negotiations to proceed as everybody appears to consider they’d proper now.

Friedman kind of ready us all for what would possibly occur. The query now could be how can the crew, the participant, and Leafs Nation all survive and prosper? That, to me, is crucial query to be answered and the objective to work towards.

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