Dreger indulges Leafs Lunch offer sheet speculation

Offer sheets are the unlikeliest of unlikely occurrences in the NHL, but a high-end talent and a general manager with a potential eye for revenge could change that next summer.  

At the very least, it makes for good radio fodder.

A Tuesday Leafs Lunch discussion on Toronto’s TSN 1050 began with a speculative question about the possibility of unsigned restricted free agent William Nylander being offer-sheeted, and evolved into a conspiracy theory about Lamoriello’s Revenge.

“What I would ask though, in just responding to that, is William Nylander a $7 million per year player,” responded NHL Insider Darren Dreger when asked about the chance of an offer sheet there. “Because Toronto is going to be comfortable in the mid-to-low 6s. I think if you get up into Pastrnak territory at 6.7, that where Leafs’ brass starts to twitch a little bit because that’s overpaying for William Nylander. And I feel like most teams, most general managers around the league, would feel the same way.

“If you’re talking Leon Draisaitl, that was a legit fear in Edmonton because he’s a centerman full-time, or more often than not, and was more an attractive target.

“But I can’t say, because I don’t have the background to say this - I don’t have the intel, firm - that there haven’t been those discussions. I guess I’d be a bit surprised.”

Gord Miller then played the part of a good radio co-host, proceeding to stir the pot.

“I think, Dregs, in this case the Leafs have lots of cap space this year, so they would match,” surmised Miller. “Now, here’s the question for you: Next summer, when they don’t have cap space, and they have a very unusual situation - very rare that two top players on the same team are restricted free agents in the same year. That’s when you’re looking at Matthews and Marner as potential offer sheet targets, aren’t you.”

Dreger then shared his perspective on the Leafs’ key contracts moving forward.

“Well look, I feel - and I’ve said this before - that Marner is going to be the last of that trio,” began Dreger. “Nylander is going to get done, at least I believe he is, so we can take him out of that threesome, and you’ve got Matthews and Marner as the obvious pair. I don’t see Auston Matthews going anywhere. I don’t see him being a legit threat because neither side is going to allow it to get to that.

“I think Mitch Marner is a little different, though. Of course he wants to sign long term with the Maple Leafs and be part of this developing Stanley Cup contending team, but it is a business. And if he has another great year, and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t - especially if he’s paired up with John Tavares through much of the season - then he’s going to push himself to a place where it’s going to get uncomfortable, I think, for Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“So Marner isn’t out of the question, in terms of an offer sheet target at that point.”

Miller wasn’t putting down that pot-stirring stick just yet either, with a smile on his face.

“Can you think of a general manager in the league who would have an axe to grind with the Leafs?” said Miller dryly. “Say one who lost his job to Kyle Dubas and lost his star player to him shortly afterward. Can you think of a GM who’s known as being pretty vengeful and spiteful? Can you think of a GM like that, who has a team in the New York area that would need a star player?”

Dreger wondered if Lou Lamoriello, who lost John Tavares to free agency shortly after taking the job with the New York Islanders, had ever offer-sheeted a player before.

“Don’t think so. But I’m sure he’s willing to make an exception in this case,” laughed Miller. “Listen, he’s a spiteful guy. It’s a long way off, but it’s being talked about. Agents and managers are talking about it, that the Leafs are in an unusual situation that you’d have two top players with contracts expiring at the same time, and they’ll be up against the cap.”

“Well, and two guys obviously who are going to make 11-plus,” noted Dreger. “I can’t imagine that Auston Matthews signs a deal for less than $11 million. So now you’ve got Tavares at 11. You’ve got Auston at 11 minimum.”

Miller misunderstood Dreger’s comment about two guys making $11-plus million, thinking Dreger was referencing Matthews and Marner when Dreger was actually referring to Tavares and likely Matthews.

“I think there’s a case to be made around 9,” indicated Dreger in terms of Marner’s next cap hit. “In the 8s, around 9, and who knows what they’re going to push for or what they’re asking for.

Now all of this is clearly just purely speculative discussion, and we know that offer sheets rarely happen.

On top of that, never discount the fact that a player needs to actually sign the offer sheet - meaning he’d want to go into that new team’s situation.

The signing team also needs to have the appropriate draft picks in place, which you can check by using CapFriendly’s calculator.

Unlikely as it may be though, keep in mind what one NHL GM’s sentiment on this subject was the day the Leafs signed Tavares away from the Islanders in free agency.

Marner and Matthews will need new contracts before next season begins, while Nylander is currently a restricted free agent.

Cap-related info via CapFriendly