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Trading Out Of #20: Realities of a Mitch Marner Trade

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The Toronto Maple Leafs were bounced once again in excruciating fashion, a seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins after rallying from a 3-1 deficit. Oh, add in a brief lead that would be tied in less than two minutes and then falling in overtime. So of course, the questions begin as to how the Leafs overcome this–the first thoughts centering around the core four of Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander.

More specifically, does it have to be broken up now in order to win later? This is where the Blackhawks could enter the chat.

Marner is the target here–currently being maligned for what is perceived as another underachieving postseason when there’s plenty of blame to go around in Toronto. Never mind the fact that the 27-year-old winger had 85 points (26-59) in 69 games this season. Forgot he was a point short of 100 last season? How about that he’s been over a point-per-game production for the last six seasons?

You can go as far back at 2019 and dig up countless articles on how Marner is overrated and how he’ll never be the “guy” to lead a team.

Honestly–who cares? Every great team needs its stars that don’t necessarily take over games but are  there to contribute in the best possible way when it matters most. The three-time Cup winning Blackhawks in 2010, ’13 and ’15 all had their guys.

The Blackhawks need a bonafide scoring forward and they also need to take a major step forward. The Maple Leafs need cap relief and possibly a reboot of sorts to finally get over the hump.

If all that it would cost would be the 20th overall pick for Mitch Marner, would it be worth it?

Mitch Marner Deal More Muddled Than It Looks

It wasn’t as if the Maple Leafs brass came out and singled Marner out. Let’s pump the brakes there. But the rumors are like wildfire–with one scenario after another linking Marner to this NHL team or that one. Are the Blackhawks a realistic trade option if indeed Mitch Marner is available?

They are–but it’s going to cost a bit more than the first-round pick at 20th overall. The Blackhawks are flush with prospects, and also have a couple players on the NHL roster who could be in Toronto, too.

But this all depends on what the Blackhawks are willing to give up–and potentially what the Maple Leafs ask for. Marner won’t get away for just a first-round pick and while Kyle Davidson has been a maestro on many trades already, this one carries some more weight than offloading Petr Mrazek and a first-round pick back in 2022.

Marner, whether one believes he’s an over or underachiever, is still a very good hockey player. It will likely cost a couple picks, including a first, a high end prospect (think Ethan Del Mastro, Nolan Allan, Oliver Moore, Sam Rinzel) or a current roster player who is younger. Lukas Reichel could fit the bill–but his contract extension seems likelier to keep him for a bit longer.

One deal that seems murky–the oft rumored Seth Jones for Marner narrative. Yes, the Leafs could use defenseman of Jones’ caliber but they’re trying to simplify their cap situation. Taking Jones on for another six years isn’t optimal. Tavares’ deal falls off after 2024-25 and while that would free up $11M in cap space, the Leafs need more pieces and Jones’ $9.5M AAV would prevent what could be some key additions.

So, What’s the Reality on a Mitch Marner Deal?

If I’m Kyle Davidson, I’m absolutely looking into this deal and would have no problem using the 20th overall pick to bring Marner into the fold. But the asking price has to be right–especially knowing Marner will take up a chunk of the cap when he re-signs.

Putting Marner on Bedard’s wing makes the Blackhawks top line unbelievably dangerous. That’s a huge selling point if Davidson pulls the trigger. While Chicago certainly holds its pressure on the big stage, the lights here are nothing compared to the insanity in Toronto. Would a change of scenery be a breath of fresh air?

That would remain to be seen. A Mitch Marner trade to the Blackhawks could do wonders for all involved. But like any other deal, concessions have be on both sides. A player of Marner’s caliber will result in a hefty return–without enough NHL ready players to fill the hole. It could even involve the Maple Leafs first-round pick they sent over in the Jake McCabe deal.

Then again, the Leafs could take the money saved and acquire someone elsewhere.

Either way, the intrigue is there. Now it’s a matter of whether Toronto actually intends on dealing one of its core four.

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