With training camp a week away, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie went one-on-one with Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to discuss the latest with restricted free agent Mitch Marner, the team captaincy and whether or not Mike Babcock enters the season on a short leash. Here are a few parts of the conversation that stood out.
What is the latest on Mitch Marner and the negotiations? That’s all Leafs fans want to know.
“Yeah, we’ve continued to have dialogue with Darren [Ferris, Marner's agent] as recently as last week. I think I would feel a little more anxious or perhaps look back and wonder whether we should have done anything different, but I think everybody in the league with these types of restricted free agents are in the exact same spot. The guys who are mentioned all the time, but even if you peel it back a level below and even the guys who aren’t mentioned all the time, they aren’t signed either.
There really hasn’t been a lot of movement in that market since July 1 when [Timo] Meier signed and when [Sebastian] Aho came off the board, so I don’t know how it will play out here. I would expect – in looking at it and looking at the history of these things – that some of it will start to shake loose and we’re certainly hopeful and we’ll continue to work towards having [Marner] be one of those players that signs in the coming week here.”
Training camp opens on Sept. 13. Do you think Mitch Marner will be signed and in St. John’s?
“It’s certainly our hope and our goal. I don’t think we want anybody to miss any day or training camp, period. So we’ll continue to work towards that and remain hopeful. As I’ve said throughout, I’m optimistic about it and we lived through it last year. We saw the effect of a player who missed training camp, missed exhibition, missed the first two months of the season and it’s tough. It’s tough to expect that player is just going to jump back in and be at the level that we expect – especially at the pay that they’ve previously earned from their previous seasons. And then when that doesn’t work well, then criticism flows in and it makes it even tougher.
So that’s our hope and our goal and I’m sure every team in the league with these types of players is in that same spot. You want your whole team there for training camp. We’re going to have some guys missing from injury, which we knew from before and you can plan for that and be ready for that, but we hope everybody else is there.”
Will there be a captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season?
“We’ll see. I think it’s always something that I have been very patient about and I think some people would say slow or too slow to do because the Toronto Maple Leafs need a captain. And I think last year, going through the year in this position rather than in the assistant GM position, it really allowed me to see the different qualities that are going to be needed in that role – how the person conducts themselves every day and really the fact that the person really needs to be present and ready every day to deal with the things that come along with it.
It’s not to say that [being the capta