Training camp officially begins Thursday for the Toronto Maple Leafs as the club conducts physicals and medical examinations before hitting the ice in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
There is one noticeable, and massive, absence from camp. Mitch Marner, the team’s leading scorer the last two seasons, is nowhere to be seen as he holds out for a new contract.
The Leafs went through the same scenario last year at this time, when William Nylander held out before he agreed to a new six-year deal, worth just under $7 million a season, minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline.
This time around, though, the stakes are higher.
Marner collected a career-high 94 points in 2018-19, the ninth-highest total in the league, and he is demanding a lot more money than Nylander.
Marner’s camp reportedly turned down a long-term contract offer earlier this summer that was worth around $11 million a season.
Word is the Markham, Ont. native prefers a shorter term package, two or three years, that will pay him close to what teammate Auston Matthews earns ($11.634 million/season) in the final season so he can capitalize on a higher salary cap and squeeze even more money out of the team when that contract expires.
No one should be surprised if this contract stalemate continues throughout the month of September and odds are it will drag on through the first few games of the season, at the very least.
Aside from the Dec. 1 deadline, there will be more pressure points throughout the first two months of the season.
If the Maple Leafs struggle out of the gate, the pressure will be on general manager Kyle Dubas to buckle and give Marner what he wants. However, a hot start in October and November for Toronto may force the Marner camp to capitulate on their contract demands.
Until a new deal is done, or Dec. 1 comes and goes without an agreement between the two sides, the hyperbole in Toronto will be much more deafening than what we saw a year ago.
WATCH: (June 22, 2019) Toronto Maple Leafs trade Patrick Marleau to Carolina Hurricanes