Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Thursday he remains “optimistic” that restricted free agent Mitch Marner will be signed by the team's season opener on Oct. 2 against the Ottawa Senators.
Dubas added that he would not comment on negotiations with Marner again until the situation "is resolved one way or another," noting he didn’t find providing updates on William Nylander’s contract negotiation productive last year.
He also acknowledged that using long-term injured reserve is a factor in wanting to have Marner signed by opening night.
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported Wednesday that the Maple Leafs have been "persistent" in pushing both seven- and eight-year extension offers to Marner this summer. He added the Maple Leafs made an offer of $11 million per season in June, which included the $1.6 million Schedule B bonus Marner did not receive in his entry-level contract.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported, however, that since the average annual value was lower than Auston Matthews' new contract on a longer term, the $11 million salary hasn't been palatable to Marner's camp. Matthews signed a five-year, $58.17 million contract with the Maple Leafs in February, which carries a cap hit of $11.634 million through the 2023-24 season.
Marner scored 26 goals and posted a career-high 94 points in 82 games with the Maple Leafs last season. He is coming off his three-year, entry-level contract and has tallied 224 points in 241 career NHL games.
Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said Thursday that with Marner absent, Kasperi Kapanen is expected to join a line with John Tavares. He added that the team's plan is to have Kapanen on a line with Alexander Kerfoot once Marner is under contract.
Marner, 22, remains one of several high-profile restricted free agents who remain without a contract, including Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen, Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks.