The Blue Jackets Should "Just Say No" to Offer-Sheeting Mitch Marner

By Peter Fish on July 16, 2019 at 8:10 am
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) skates with the puck up ice during the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

Mitch Marner is coming off a 94-point season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He's only 22 years old, and he's a star. But here us on out this: signing him to a lucrative offer sheet would be a mistake for the Blue Jackets.

Let's start with the offer sheet basics: compensation (for both the player, and the Maple Leafs).

In order for the Blue Jackets to potentially pry Marner out of Toronto – that's the key word here, as the Maple Leafs would have the opportunity to match any offer – Columbus would have to pay Marner more than $10,568,590 per season and give up four first round draft selections.

Meanwhile, Marner doesn't seem inclined to sign a long-term deal, meaning that at the end of a four-year deal, he would be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and the Blue Jackets would have given up four chances to find a player in the first round who could contribute on a entry-level deal – and the Jackets would be able to control that player's rights much longer.

If Marner was willing to sign a seven-year deal, it would make it more tolerable, but next year there would be a target on the Blue Jackets' back.

With Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson being restricted free agents (RFA) after 20192-20, they would be targets of a potential retaliatory offer sheet. Looking at the past two offer sheets in the NHL, signed by Shea Weber (Philadelphia) and Sebastian Aho (Montreal), Weber received $27M in the first 12 months of the contract due to two $13M signing bonuses and a $1M base salary in 2012-13, while Aho will receive just under $22M in his first 12 months due to an $11.7M signing bonus this season, a $700k base salary for 2019-20 and a $9.87M signing bonus next season.

The Blue Jackets would match any offer given to Dubois and would likely do the same for Anderson, but any time a club has to spend over $20M on one player in 12 months, it takes a toll.

Additionally, with questions about whether Joonas Korpisalo can step up and take over the No. 1 role in net, if Elvis Merzlikins will take up the mantel, or if both will falter and the Blue Jackets will need to sign someone or complete a trade for a stop-gap netminder.

Losing four years' worth of first round picks for four years of Marner is not a good deal for the Blue Jackets, despite the obvious talent and game-breaking ability that Marner possesses. It's a tempting proposition for Columbus and GM Jarmo Kekalainen, considering the caliber of players they just watched walk out the door in free agency.

While there are unwritten rules left and right about offer sheets, the point remains that offer sheets are a tool of the CBA and it's in any GM's right to utilize them. But the way the NHL works, you can bet the Blue Jackets wouldn't be done any favors in the near future if they're the next offer-sheeting club.  

The bottom line: with questions in net and a need to add young, talented pieces through the draft in the years ahead, Marner is a luxury and on a short-term contract, wouldn't deliver enough ROI for the Blue Jackets to feel comfortable doing the deal.

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