Just four days ago, I had thought things were getting more optimistic in the standoff between the Colorado Avalanche and Mikko Rantanen. I was hearing more about both sides being more open to different contract “structures” for the talented Finn right winger, who has posted seasons of 87 and 84 points, respectively, for teams that made the playoffs in both the last two years.
And then, a day later, came the Mitch Marner six-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs with a cap hit of $10.9 million per.
I initially thought the Marner contract meant an instant raise for Mikko in the negotiations. The Avalanche pushed back hard against that notion, telling me that, even though every NHL team has the same salary cap limitations, that the way the Maple Leafs do business isn’t how the Colorado Avalanche does business. The Maple Leafs make a massive profit. The Avalanche is usually lucky to break even. Yeah, the Avs are owned by the fantastically rich Kroenke family, but if the Avs and Maple Leafs were compared side-by-side in terms of how much money each team brings in from attendance/sponsorships/everything, the Maple Leafs are by far the bigger enterprise.
You know what the Rantanen camp’s feelings were on the Marner-contract-comparable-to-Mikko issue?
Nobody will go on the record, but I can tell you this with 100 percent certainty: They feel like the Marner contract ABSOLUTELY IS on the table now, as far as comparables go.
And so here we are, on September 16, with Avalanche training camp over, and no agreement between Rantanen and the Avs.
Again, nobody on the record on this. But let’s just cut to the chase on each side’s position on this thing:
AVS: “What Marner got in Toronto doesn’t apply to us in Denver. Toronto can afford to overpay for players – and WOW, did they ever overpay for Marner! The guy has one 90-point-plus year in Toronto, one year after putting up 69 points – AND OH BY THE WAY, THAT WAS THE FIRST YEAR IN WHICH JOHN TAVARES BECAME A LINEMATE/TEAMMATE OF HIS – and Toronto caves in.”
RANTANEN CAMP: “Of all the restricted free agent forwards still unsigned, our guy is the single best comparable to Marner. He actually has had more points in the last two years than Marner! Marner’s contract ABSOLUTELY IS part of the new landscape. They are the two most comparable players, of all the ones still unsigned, in terms of talent, points, PPG, ability to drive the play of others.”
This is absolutely at the crux of the current impasse. This is the difference in the sides’ positions. Nobody expected the Leafs to give $10.9 million per to Marner. Toronto GM Kyle Dubas now has the league-wide reputation, among other GMs, that he will cave in the end.
I know, I know: the Avs have the money under the cap. Just give what Mikko wants, and move on.
Nope. Avs have never really done business like that. The Avs love Mikko, and really want him. But they will NOT have the Toronto Maple Leafs dictate the terms on this thing.
I make no predictions when this thing ends now. I still think it’ll be done before the start of the season. Why do I think that? Because both sides will be losers if it drags beyond Oct. 3, the season-opener.
But business is business. Ultimately in pro sports, there are no feelings.