No Chance Mitch Marner Will Waive

TORONTO (May 23) — It was just more than 16 years ago, in March 2008, that fans of the Maple Leafs briefly turned on franchise scoring leader Mats Sundin. Responding, as it were, to Sundin exercising a provision that allowed him to remain a Leaf for the balance of his contract. In technical jargon, a full no–movement clause. Cliff Fletcher, the interim general manager between John Ferguson Jr. and Brian Burke, insisted he could trade Sundin to any of three playoff–bound rivals, thereby providing the big Swede a chance to vie for the National Hockey League title. As a return, the Leafs would obtain prospects and a high draft pick. I remember landing in Ottawa and calling Fletcher from my hotel room in Kanata. Cliff was adamant he could pull off a deal beneficial to the player and the club. Problem was, Sundin didn’t want to quit on his teammates so late in the 2007–08 season, even with the Maple Leafs beyond reasonable playoff contention. It was, quite legitimately, not part of his DNA.

So, Mats chose to retain his contract privilege, thereby generating a dollop of resentment from the fan base.

Of course, in no way should Sundin have been obligated to make a personal move on behalf of the team. He had given the Maple Leafs his full contract value, leading the club each year in points and twice helping Toronto (in 1999 and 2002) to a berth in the Stanley Cup semifinals. In fact, had Sundin been healthy in the ’02 playoffs, the Leafs may have won the Stanley Cup. Or, at least advanced to meet Detroit for the championship. With its captain profusely hobbled, Toronto still made it to Game 6 of the semis before bowing (in overtime) to Carolina. So, it’s not as if Sundin “owed” the Leafs, or their loyal followers, some form of compromise or accommodation. Even if he was so accused by the fans. The antipathy toward Sundin ramped up midway through the following season when he emerged from a brief respite and joined the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent. Again, entirely within his rights. When Mats returned for his lone visit in a Canucks’ jersey, he received a long standing ovation, during which the linesman refused to drop the puck, even at the behest of Sundin, whose eyes were watery. After ol’ Mats, naturally, beat the Maple Leafs with a decisive goal (on Vesa Toskala) in the shootout, another love–fest occurred when the former captain skated out as the No. 1 star — clapping his gloves at all corners of the arena.

There’s nothing so sweet and mushy as forgiveness.

That brings us to the current most–gifted player with the Blue and White — even more prolific than Sundin during the regular schedule, yet unable to deliver, as did the Swede, in the Stanley Cup chase. Mitch Marner was flat–out spoiled by former Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who not only overcompensated the young winger but, astoundingly, tacked on a full no–move in the final two years of his current pact. That’s one year more than Auston Matthews and William Nylander received at the end of their first contracts. Don’t ask me, or anyone else, how Marner earned that level of trade security. It was, and remains, a bizarre concession. Neither would we be discussing the matter quite as disdainfully had Marner and his 82–game stalwarts managed to achieve a modicum of playoff success. Still, two years of full movement protection is a clause that should be reserved for the choicest of players; those who have strongly challenged for (or won) the Stanley Cup. Not for a regular–season wizard that fades when the hunt begins. Now, the Leafs will likely violate all professional courtesy by asking Marner to help save them. As the club did Sundin in 2008. By waiving the no–movement privilege negotiated in good faith with the previous administration. And, trust me, barring a disaster, the result will be the same… in this case, Marner choosing to remain in a Toronto jersey through the end of his pact. Thereby eligible to walk, next summer, as an unrestricted free agent. As did the big Swede, 16 years ago (only the calendar changes here in Leafs Land).

If the core of the Blue and White truly enjoys its time together, it will subsist through one more full season and playoffs. In other words, neither Marner nor John Tavares will forego his no–movement privilege. That could change, of course, if one or both men grow to detest the sight of new coach Craig Berube, who is hardly a barrel of laughs. In less than a year, the Maple Leafs have gone from Harbour–60 to The Burger Shack (a staple on Eglinton Ave. at Oriole Pkwy.). It’ll be ground beef and fries from this point on. Were Berube to wear down his formerly sheltered players with grunts and admonition, perhaps Mitch and the captain would be happy to leave.

More than likely, the holdover Leafs will adapt to their latest bench boss and thrive, yet again, between October and April. Somehow creating more false hope for the Stanley Cup tournament. It happens every year, like clockwork. So, why would Mitch and Stephanie Marner, pictured above at their wedding last July, uproot for a couple of months at the end of next season? Rather than playing it out with the Leafs… then having the entire NHL to choose from in free agency. And, a full summer to adapt to a new location. Which sounds more appealing for a young couple than living out of suitcases over, perhaps, three months. And, that’s why I contend Marner will have another killer season in his contract year before moving on. At a salary and cap–hit the Leafs cannot afford.

As did Zach Hyman, to the Edmonton Oilers.

It was inevitable that one member of the Big 3 draft choices would need to be sacrificed. Or, would play his way out of town. For my money, and as written repeatedly in this corner, it should have happened following the Montreal playoff debacle in 2021. Not after three more years of post–season bumbling. But, fate has fallen upon Marner to play elsewhere starting in the 2025–26 season. For nothing in return.

It won’t happen beforehand. No matter how diligently the Leafs try.


The newest Maple Leafs coach played 40 games on left wing for the club during the 1991–92 season, scoring five goals and running up 109 penalty minutes. Here’s what Craig Berube looked like on the front and back of his ’91–92 O–Pee–Chee Premier hockey card.


These unique items were part of the O–Pee–Chee 1971–72 hockey card set. Cartoon booklets measuring 2 x 3 inches of 24 NHL players — several less–heralded than others. Why, for example (and with no disrespect), were such comparatively middling skaters as Juha (Whitey) Widing, Greg Polis, Jude Droiun and Frank St. Marseille in a group with Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito? Some odd choices, yet little souvenirs I still have in a scrapbook (12 of the 24). An inside example of the booklets is pictured, below, from the Keon issue. 


21 comments on “No Chance Mitch Marner Will Waive

  1. I would say punt 16 and 91 to the 4th line and let them figure it out. And as for the 2002 Leafs, I would not have brought Mats back until that edition of the Leafs had lost a game. They won 3 straight against Ottawa and then Game 1 against the Canes. Mats came back and it was over. I still remember screaming at the TV before Game 2 when they said he was playing. That team created something without him that they were lacking with him… Chemistry. And they were winning. I still haven’t forgiven Pat Quinn (God rest his soul) for that. When you are winning without your highest paid player you keep him on the bench, or IR as it were. That was the last year I cared for the team. I still read stuff and play fantasy but will not waste more than 15 minutes watching a game. Waste of time.

    1. You had me until the last line. It’s human nature: Those that take the time and effort to message that they never watch the Leafs are actually at their TV 20 minutes before game time. Try a different tack. That one is too old.

      1. At the TV 20 min before a game?!?!? LOL maybe 35 years ago. Today, I sit with my back to the TV if a hockey game is on at a restaurant or bar I am at. Leafs or no Leafs.

        The brand of hockey played today is not my jam. I preferred the Mustard of the 70s, 80s, and yes even the early to mid-90s. I want open ice take your head off body checks, racing to the puck to negate an icing, and I want players regulating themselves for their conduct on the ice.

        IMO, we are not watching the greatest athletes of our time. Maybe we are from a physical, I work out, standpoint but not from a mental, we are going to war, standpoint.

        Like I said, I read stats and play fantasy but I wouldn’t know 80% of these guys on my fantasy team if they were sitting at the same table drinking with me.

        Each generation is weaker than its predecessor. I include my generation in that. And the game suffers. The Sport is a Game. The League is a Business. The Business needs to increase profits and thus changes the Game to what it thinks will sell to increase said profits.

        I am absolutely fine with this. That is what you do in a free capitalist world. Make money. But I don’t have to consume or digest it. Do the changes make the game better? That depends on the person. IMO, nothing beats the free flowing hockey of the 80s.

        I am a die hard Leafs tshirt owner. I do not own a tshirt of any of the other 31 teams. If the Leafs ever win (I hope so once in my life) I will buy a second Tshirt with Stanley Cup Champions written on it.

        Hell…I might even be at the TV 4 hrs before Game 4 of that Stanley Cup Finals but until then… Waste of Time.

  2. I really don’t think it matters which of the overpaid 3 is traded, or walks in free agency. I’m skipping Tavares because he’s not going – period.
    The issue with this team is organizational. The blue & white disease actually infects the management more than the players. They are either paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, dazzled by their own brilliance per media-led adoration, or simply 100% convinced that THEIR plan/approach is the ONLY way to go in spite of it being well outside-the-box.
    Of the 4 teams in the semi’s, all have an effective #1 defenceman, and 3 of them have a drafted, undisputed #1 goalie. The leafs have nobody who resembles either commodity. Not on the team. Not on the farm. Not in the drafted list of players. As a matter of fact, they’ve not had either in DECADES!
    Other teams take draft flyers in later rounds on largeish defencemen or goalies. The self-congratulatory leafs, under the auspices of “taking the best player available” mostly take little forwards with the undefinable “hockey-smarts”. It’s an easy approach to defend when it inevitably leads to a collection of little guys with skill but who can’t play on an NHL top 6.
    As far as I’m concerned they could trade all 3. I barely care now, and can’t see a path were this team, with any combination of these 3 disappointments can win 8 games in the playoffs let alone 16.

  3. No I don’t want to see Marner leave. I think that is a big mistake. Have a look at the other players such as Edmundson and other ones not playing so well and leave the core 4 alone.

  4. It would seem the Leafs are intent on breaking up the core four. Marner is the logical choice to go for a variety of reasons. If the organization makes it clear they don’t want him back (that discussion may have already happened), I can’t see Marner wanting to return under those circumstances. If he is moved, he still controls his destiny a year from now.

  5. NMC’s usually also involve a player taking less money on the contract in exchange for receiving the NMC. That’s where Dubas failed so miserably. He overpaid the core 4 to begin with, then awarded NMC’s on top of that!

  6. The fact that the Leafs had approximately 45 million allocated to four forwards is the real mistake!! One of those four needed to be a true #1 right defenseman or at the very least a true #1 goalie of which there are maybe 10 in the NHL today. It is not Marner’s fault that he got his overpriced contract. That falls squarely on the heads of Dubas and Shanahan. No one can deny that Marner is a very skilled hockey player but he is not the goal scoring finisher like Matthews (plus he is a 200ft centre who always should get premium $$ ) or Nylander. Playoff hockey is NOT THE SAME AS REGULAR SEASON HOCKEY!! Leaf management needs to build a team going forward with playoff pedigree!!

  7. Marner is the best player on this team. Mathews won’t score close to what he does now and will he fill in on the penalty kill heck no. Sure Marner didn’t do anything in the playoffs WHO DID? Toronto fan’s of today are a joke and need to grow up and respect what Marner really does on this team!

    1. Spot on. I’ve been getting hammered on Facebook for being pro Marner. fans have been spoiled, but a player of Marner’s caliber doesn’t come along very often and the fickle TO fans want to be rid of him. I can’t fathom the stupidity. In order to compensate the bad attitude toward him, I think it would be in both the Marner’s camp and the Leafs best interest if he were to be offered and accept a deal identical to Nylander. This would show Leafs fans that he is still a team player. Never mind a huge raise. It would be raised enough. This might patch up the anti-Mitch attitude. Otherwise, I think the fans should be prepared to swallow their words when he leaves in free agency and the Leafs get nothing in return.

      1. So your plan is to continue to do the same thing which has resulted in failure over and over again. Overinvest in forward talent instead of diversifying the portfolio. Got it.

        If this team had SNIFFED a championship run at some point, maybe that would make some sense. But when your best result in the last 7 yrs is making it to the 2nd round – one time – and being dispatched once you got there rather handedly, your plan/system isn’t working.

        Marner is a great player. In the regular season. Nobody cares anymore. The balance between skill and grit, between offense and defense, between talent and toughness, remains off and getting Marner’s dollars allocated elsewhere is the proper move.

        Extending Marner would be a mistake.

  8. All those “fans” who want to see Marner moved should just give up their seats in protest! There are many of us who would be glad to fill those seats to watch Marner and the team play on!

  9. In my opinion the best thing the Leafs can do is nothing. Unless Marner or Tavares specifically ask for a trade you keep both and negotiate new contracts. Tavares you would want on a cheap deal for a few years or don’t resign him and Marner you want on an 8 year deal at a fair value, definitely no more than Nylander. This frees up to $11 million in cap space for the 2025-2026 season. It possibly means a wasted year, but you keep a player in Marner who will be extremely difficult if not impossible to get equal value for.

    If Marner won’t sign a fair value contract and he won’t waive his no move clause and you want to make a move this off season then you still have an option to clear out his cap space; you could do the same with Tavares, but it’s less likely to work. NMCs don’t apply to the waiver wire so the Leafs could waive Marner and another team could pick him up freeing up $11 million on the cap. There is a very high chance some team will pick up Marner for free. The trick is the worst team that puts in a claim gets the player so if Arizona(Utah) puts in the claim he has no choice but to go there. Treliving could use this as a negotiating tactic with Marner to force him to waive his NMC so he can at least have some say in his destination.

    My personal opinion is to re-sign Marner and wait until 2025 when Tavares contract is up to do anything of substance to the team.

  10. I don’t understand those fans who think the Leafs need to keep and extend Marner, even after all the playoff failures. If Matthews and Nylander are as good as Leafs fans think they are, they should be able to provide enough offense without Marner. Having an extra 11m+ by not extending him will go a long way in helping them obtain a true #1 goalie and top four defenseman; positions they need filled much more than an overabundance of regular season superstar forwards.

    The Leafs need to add players who will make them better in the postseason. Mitch Marner is not that type of player. Why continue to use up so much cap space on a guy who doesn’t help your team succeed when he’s needed most? Those fans who insist that letting him go is a mistake just refuse to accept reality. The Leafs don’t need to keep him to succeed, they need a better use of his cap space for that to happen. I guess he was right that the players are looked upon like gods in Toronto: At least by a certain segment of their fans who are too starstruck by regular season numbers to see what’s really best for the team in order to compete for a championship.

  11. Howard, I totally agree with your piece and thank you, the pictures of the old booklets brought back memories.

  12. Maybe and maybe not. No-trade clauses are a negotiating tool to be used if the threatened destination is Winnipeg or Columbus or some place the wife does not wish to go. But go where the sun is usually shining and management is willing to offer a giant market-sized extension and who knows? He wouldn’t be the first.

    1. Yep, especially if it’s an 8 year sign and trade when he can’t get 8 years otherwise because the Leafs aren’t re-signing and keeping him 😉

  13. It was terrible the way the Leafs treated Sundin after his great career in Toronto. He could have played a few more years in this town. That ’08 season was his last in Toronto and it ended on a sour note. Perhaps there was some good intentions there but these are the Toronto Maple Leafs. Right is wrong and wrong is wrong. It all goes wrong.

    Mike Babcock said a few times when he was coach here that ‘Mitch Marner is a Maple Leaf.’. So true. Marner ain’t going anywhere. He will be here, he will stay here and he will retire a Maple Leaf. Leafs fans need to let go their emotions once in a while. Try to think straight. You can’t just blow up the team. All you can do is make a good transaction, then follow it up with another good transaction and then keep going on that path. We hope Brad Treliving makes good transactions from tomorrow on. Leafs are not a cup contender. They fell a few spots in the standings from the season before. If they’re not smart and careful they could fall out of the playoffs. That’s the reality. Trading Marner can’t possibly turn out well even if they could. It would only expedite the downfall and jeopardize any chance of being a good team again. Time. It takes time.

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