Rick Zamperin: Hopeful, not optimistic, that Mitch Marner plays in Maple Leafs’ season opener

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner speaks to reporters after a locker clean out at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Christopher Katsarov / The Canadian Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs will begin their training camp Sept. 13 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Between now and then, that’s 10 days. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is using words like ‘hopeful’ and ‘optimistic’ to describe his thoughts on whether or not star forward Mitch Marner will be signed to a new contract before camp begins.

READ MORE: Rick Zamperin: Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner won’t go down to the wire, will they? (July 22, 2019)

Marner, 22, is one of several high-profile restricted free agents who has yet to sign a new deal as he looks for a big payday coming off his entry level contract.

In Marner’s case — Toronto’s leading point producer over the last two seasons — he could potentially jump from a base salary of around $1 million to $10 million.

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There’s a lot on the line, for both sides.

Marner wants to get paid similar to what fellow superstars Auston Matthews ($11.64 million) and John Tavares ($11 million) receive, while Dubas and the Leafs have to make sure the contract allows the club to stay under the league’s salary cap.

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Durham police design Mitch Marner bite suit – Aug 26, 2019

If the Markham native isn’t signed by the time the start of camp rolls around, the pressure on both sides to get a deal done will be immense.

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Dubas will consistently be hounded for answers by the media while Marner will be in danger of falling out of favour with a Stanley Cup starved fanbase if the high stakes standoff drags on well into the regular season.

As a Leafs fan, I’m ‘hopeful’ that Marner will be in the starting lineup for game No. 1 on Oct. 2 against Ottawa, but I am not ‘optimistic’ that will be the case.

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