Each day through the NHL Draft June 21-22 and free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie said Tuesday he expects Mitch Marner's camp will not be fazed by what other restricted free agents sign for this summer, since he is looking at a Toronto Maple Leafs teammate as his comparable.
"There is no news on that and maybe there isn’t going to be for a while now," McKenzie explained on TSN Radio 1050 Toronto. "These players coming out of entry-level, we’ve talked about it before… Patrik Laine is not saying, 'Ah well, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler only make $6-8 million bucks. I shouldn’t make more than them. I should make less.' No, he wants $9-10 million bucks.
"These guys want to get paid, and there is no mechanism to settle a dispute… There is no external mechanism to settle a dispute between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner other than him withholding his services or the Leafs giving him close to what he wants. That’s it. You’ve got to kind of pick your poison. That’s why Nylander did as well as he did and that’s why Matthews did as well as he did. It’s why this problem is going to repeat itself in a lot of different cities - Colorado with Rantanen, Calgary with Tkachuk, Vancouver with Boeser and Point in Tampa Bay, and McAvoy in Boston and Werenski in Columbus and Meier in San Jose and Laine and Connor in Winnipeg. It is everywhere.
"If Marner signs for a lot, they’ll say, 'Yeah, I want what Mitch Marner got.' If Marner signs for a little, they’ll say, 'I’m not going to sign for what Mitch Marner did.'
"If Mikko Rantanen signs tomorrow for $9 million with the Colorado Avalanche, you know what Mitch Marner is going to say about that? 'Who cares. That’s not my comparable. I choose my comparable. My comparable is Auston Matthews. Now pay me. If you don’t pay me, I’m not showing up to camp.' That’s why it is hard.
"I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: When the NHL put the entry-level system in place and put restrictions on what guys get, when you come out of entry-level, you only get certain rights. One of them is not salary arbitration. That was always initially viewed as a huge win for the owners. They’ve got no rights, basically. It’s withhold services or sign your contract. Everybody assumed that meant that these guys would be in a real tough spot. The exact opposite has happened. These players have become so good, so fast, and meant so much to their teams - all across the NHL. They all want eight, nine, 10, 11 million.
"If there was salary arbitration, I think the clubs would be happy. There would be a mechanism to settle it and you would have to throw out comparables. They’d go to (arbitration) and point to Mark Stone and Nikita Kucherov. 'Tell us why you should get more than $9.5 million.' He’d go, “Auston Matthews.” And they’d go, “We’ve got so many more comparables at $9.5. That’s what you deserve.'
"A lot of people would’ve assumed that salary arbitration is a tool players view as an asset and the owners view as a liability more often than not. And yet it turned out to be exactly the opposite."
Matthews signed a five-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs in February which carries an annual cap hit of $11.634 million - the second highest mark in the NHL behind Connor McDavid.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said last month he was hoping to have Marner signed July 1 after negotiations with William Nylander carried into December this season. Marner, who scored 26 goals and posted 94 point this season, has led the Maple Leafs in scoring in each of the past two seasons.
He is one of three restricted free agents on the Maple Leafs roster, along with Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen.
Top of the Market?
With Erik Karlsson staying in San Jose and Jacob Trouba off the trade market, TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reports Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen is likely the No. 1 target for teams looking for a top-pairing defenceman.
LeBrun wrote in The Athletic Tuesday that interest has picked up in the defenceman over the past 24 hours and points to the Tampa Bay Lightning as a team eyeing the 24-year-old. LeBrun reports the Lightning looked into Ristolainen ahead of the trade deadline in February and could circle back. He believes the Sabres would look to acquire Mikhail Sergachev in such a deal with Tampa Bay.
Ristolainen, a right-handed shot, scored five goals and posted 43 points in 78 games this season while averaging 24:38 of ice time. He finished the season with a league-worst minus-41 rating.
The 2013 first-round pick is signed for three more years at a cap hit of $5.4 million.
On the Move?
Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reports that Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is "seriously exploring" the trade market for right-handed defenceman Cody Ceci.
Garrioch believes that if the Senators can fetch a return similar to what the Pittsburgh Penguins received for Olli Maatta last week (Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick), Ceci could be moved ahead of Friday's draft.
Dorion said earlier this week that he has opened negotiations with Ceci on an extension and expressed optimism the blueliner will improve under the team's new coaching staff.
“We’ve had talks with (agent) J.P. Barry, and they’ve gone along pretty well we feel,” Dorion said. “Whether it’s short-, medium- or long-term contract, we think that Cody under D.J. (Smith) and assistant Jack Capuano can grow into being a better defenceman, and we’ll see where that leads us.”
The 25-year-old has spent his entire career with the Senators since being selected 15th overall in 2012. He scored seven goals and posted 26 points in 74 games while averaging 22:34 of ice time per game.
He is coming off a one-year, $4.3 million contract awarded to him in arbitration last summer.