The stress and anxiety among the Maple Leafs’ fan base was lifted Friday with the re-signing of restricted free agent forward Mitch Marner.
According to multiple reports, Toronto’s top point-getter each of last two seasons, Marner agreed to a six-year contract worth an annual average value of $10.893 million US after setting career-bests in goals (26), assists (68) and points (94) last season.
Off-season moves by Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas, including the trading of forwards Patrick Marleau, Connor Brown and Nazem Kadri, reportedly left the team with enough salary cap space to work out a deal with the 22-year-old Marner of Markham, Ont.
Dubas had said signing Marner was “priority one” in April after the Leafs were eliminated by the Boston Bruins for the second consecutive spring.
Since then, he continued to negotiate with the player’s agent, Darren Ferris, while also re-signing fellow RFAs Andreas Johansson (four years, $3.4-million cap hit) and Kasperi Kapanen (three years, $3.2 million cap hit).
Other moves include:
Dealing Marleau, a conditional first-round pick and seventh-round selection in 2020 to Carolina for a sixth-rounder next year. The Hurricanes subsequently bought out the remainder of the veteran forward’s $6.25 million contract for next season.
Trading defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and Brown to Ottawa in a six-player swap that included fellow blue-liners Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur coming to Toronto.
Shipping Kadri, defenceman Calle Rosen and a third-round selection in the 2020 NHL draft to Colorado for defenceman Tyson Barrie, forward Alex Kerfoot and a sixth-rounder next June. The Avalanche also retained 50 per cent of the remaining $5.5 million owed to Barrie.
Adding veteran centre and Toronto native Jason Spezza at the league minimum $700,000.
Previously, Dubas said there was a chance he would have let Marner walk had another team signed him to an offer sheet but also wished to keep all of the club’s young stars.
It was reported over the summer that Ferris, who didn’t wish to negotiate a contract for Marner during the season, was looking for a deal similar to the five-year, $58.17 million ($11.634 AAV) contract that centre Auston Matthews signed with Toronto in February.
WATCH | Patience, poise and a historic Marner penalty shot
Free-agent centre John Tavares joined the team last summer on a seven-year deal worth $77 million ($11 million AAV) while forward William Nylander’s cap hit is close to $7 million.
In 2015, the Maple Leafs drafted Marner with their first pick (fourth overall). The imaginative six-foot, 175-pounder has scored 67 goals and 224 points in 241 NHL regular-season games while adding 17 points in 20 playoff contests.