The waiting game in Mitch Marner’s contract talks with the Maple Leafs is being fuelled in part by the fact that there are simply no comparables to provide parameters for getting the deal done.
And so, a suggestion has been floated: Why not make restricted free agents such as Marner — and a host of other young NHL stars this summer — eligible for salary arbitration when their entry-level contracts run out?
That concept has already surfaced among NHL general managers, who have discussed the notion of closing what some agents call the “black hole” — the gap between the end of an entry-level deal and arbitration eligibility after a player’s fourth season.
Any progress on that front, however, will arrive too late for the current crop of RFAs in limbo, featuring star forwards Marner, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikko Rantanen and Brayden Point — all of whom seem unlikely to sign before training camps open in September.
“It’s been talked about, and it’s being discussed behind closed doors … as part of the next CBA,” one GM said Thursday morning about moving up salary arbitration rights.
“Theoretically, it makes sense … Practically, though, you have to walk through it, because I can tell you if it came up for this current group, none of them would be likely to file because there are no (comparables), and comps are the biggest category used in arbitration.”
The Leafs went through a similar process last year with forward William Nylander, a restricted free agent who didn’t sign until the absolute 11th hour on Dec. 1 — after which he would have been ineligible to play for the rest of the season. As it was, he missed half a season and it set back his development curve.