Offer sheets, shmoffer sheets.
That’s basically what Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas thinks about the topic.
Dubas spoke to reporters Monday about the potential of an offer sheet or two landing on his desk after July 1, 2019 should he fail to sign soon-to-be restricted free agent star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to new contracts.
The 21-year-olds are part of Toronto’s fantastic foundation of talented players that has helped propel the club to the upper echelon of the National Hockey League. Matthews has recorded 159 points in 163 NHL games while Marner has collected 173 points in 192 games, and each will command annual salaries between $10 million and $12 million.
Dubas isn’t worried about having to deal with an offer sheet from another team, saying he expects to sign Matthews and Marner to long-term deals well before Canada Day.
“Our salary cap situation is set up that we could defend any of those threats with no worry at all,” said Dubas. “I spend zero per cent of my time having any worry about that.”
While it may not actually be zero per cent, Dubas’ level of worry is probably close to it because at this point in time, the Maple Leafs are projected to have about $27 million in cap space next summer — more than enough to match any contract offer a competing team could make. In the event Toronto received an offer sheet for Matthews and/or Marner and the team didn’t match it, the Leafs would receive four first-round draft picks. That’s a high price to pay for any team.
The last time an offer sheet was used was in 2013 when the Calgary Flames targeted Ryan O’Reilly, but he remained in Colorado after the Avalanche matched the offer.
Another reason why Dubas isn’t concerned is because he isn’t planning on another William Nylander-type situation with Matthews and Marner.
“It will be our intention to try to get those (done) as soon as possible,” said Dubas. “We want to avoid the situation we were just in.”
The Leafs and Nylander’s camp didn’t agree on a new contract (six years, $41 million) until a few minutes before a Dec. 1 deadline, causing the 22-year-old Swede to miss Toronto’s first 28 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ William Nylander surprises Toronto hockey program with big donation
Dubas also understands that Toronto is not alone in this situation. There is an impressive list of young star players who may also be the target of offer sheets, including Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen (NHL points leader), Winnipeg sharpshooter Patrik Laine, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Vancouver’s Brock Boeser.
While the threat of an offer sheet is a possibility, Dubas and the Leafs are confident they will not have to go down that route.