Could the Leafs be about to troll the NHL?
Negotiations are usually a meet in the middle kind of thing, unless the middle is more than what the other side has to offer.
So the settlement? Four years at 9m/y. That is what I believe the final number will be around.
When you negotiate, what's "fair" usually isn't on the table, because people don't live in a fair world: they live in their version of a fair world. And there are things the Leafs cannot reconcile in terms of the Marner camp demands (Paul, Dreger, etc), (all kidding aside), and then there are things Marner cannot reconcile in what the Leafs have to offer.
Marner has quickly become persona non grata in Toronto once the Bobfather (TSN's Bob McKenzie in case anyone lives under a rock) put out the number that was offered at the draft - 11 x 7 or 11 x 8. O'Neil went on a rant on TSN yak-show Overdrive about how crazy he is to turn down over a hundred million Canadian.
The Leafs can't give Marner three years with the third year at fifteen million: that's ridiculous. They also have a tight salary structure which gave Matthews the free pass and everyone else "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!". They cannot give him the Matthews contract with those silly gimmicky bonuses he missed from his ELC because Lou shrugged and said "Well Mat-iews wen' out and scoh'd fohty foh us, kid - kinda seems only fai".
They gave Matthews the rose - he's going to have to live with that.
But Marner cannot give the Leafs a cheaper contract than Matthews and cannot give them concessions. He's not going to live in someone else's shadow. He's not going to be the first mate anymore. It seems that this is extremely important to him because I'd be grinning ear to ear if I got the third richest RFA contract in history. But, you know, he wants to YAR the ship! YARRR!!!
So what do you give him? Four times nine.
The Leafs concede early UFA status in this contract, but Marner has to give back a couple of million per annum in order for them to restructure their salary cap fiasco. Man that payroll is lookin' some ugly - almost as ugly as Arizona's or Edmonton's.
But Marner concedes the cash he really wants. Yet, the last thing is that he gets to one-up Matthews in that he gets to go to UFA status a year earlier.
Dubas doesn't like it? He shouldn't have given Matthews 11.6 * 5. That's his fault. Marner doesn't like it? He shouldn't be so narcissistic. It almost seems like living under everyone else's shadow (he's from McDavid's age group) might be the chip on his shoulder he's never been able to knock off.
But a contract like this will hard troll the league - those other RFAs will have exclamation points pop up over their head (triple this effect for their agents), and say "wait, we can GET CONTRACTS THAT GO STRAIGHT TO FIRST YEAR UFA ELIGIBILITY?"
Then we'll have another long lockout because Player Agents use GM stupidity to negotiate their contracts and smart GMs have to argue against the whims of GMs (or Charles Wang puppets) who've done less-than-intelligent moves.
But ultimately, it will be a deal like to get it done. And maybe Toronto will then have to have faith that they can extend him in that last year, and the war begins again. But that's GMing. Every year is a war.
Both sides should hate this deal - that's why it's perfect. "Nobody walks from a negotiation happy!"
Edit: Would ya look at that? Marner caved. The team is now officially Conan the Barbarian, a loin cloth for defence, and a big broadsword for offence.