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Marner has Maple Leafs ready after Aho gets offer sheet

Toronto well situated if forward receives one like Canadiens gave out

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- If the offer sheet signed by Sebastian Aho with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday increased the chance of Mitchell Marner receiving one, the Toronto Maple Leafs are prepared for it.

"You have to be (ready) … leave yourself protected and well-situated to whatever may come your way," Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Monday. "Or at least give yourself the ability to make a well-rounded decision and not a defensive one."

Marner, like Aho, is a restricted free agent. Montreal gave Carolina Hurricanes forward Aho a five-year offer sheet worth $8.454 million per season, which Carolina has seven days to match. If it doesn't, it would receive three NHL Draft picks -- a first-round, a second-round and a third-round -- as compensation.

It was the first offer sheet signed by an NHL player since Ryan O'Reilly, with the Calgary Flames, on Feb. 28, 2013. The Colorado Avalanche matched that and kept O'Reilly.

Dubas was in the middle of a press conference when he learned of the Aho offer sheet. The GM mentioned that the Maple Leafs acted quickly last week in signing restricted free agent forwards Kasperi Kapanen (three years, $9.6 million) and Andreas Johnsson (four years, $13.6 million), who each was eligible for one.

"If we just went out and spent everything and left nothing -- if you go back, Andreas and Kasperi were restricted as well before we got those things taken care of -- we wanted to be mindful of that," Dubas said. "There was a realistic opportunity there. They're very, very good young players (Kapanen is 22, Johnsson is 24) who have already proven they're going to be very good in the NHL and have played well. And in Mitch's case, he's a star in the NHL."

 

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Marner led Toronto with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 82 games last season and has 224 points (67 goals, 157 assists) in 241 games since the forward was the No. 4 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

The 22-year-old reportedly is seeking at least $11 million per season. An offer sheet worth more than $10,568,589 per season would return compensation of four first-round draft picks.

"We continue to talk with [agent Darren Ferris] and will continue to do so," Dubas said. "Again, the quality of the person first and the player second, it's important to us we find a way to get this done."

Dubas said assistant general manager Brandon Pridham, who deals with the NHL salary cap, has made sure "we're protected to evaluate every single thing that comes in here. I feel we're well set up for whatever comes our way, but our primary ambition is to try and find an agreement with Mitch."

Dubas, who was hired by the Maple Leafs as assistant GM in 2014, said he wasn't caught completely off guard by the Aho offer sheet.

"I've not been in the League when there's been one (offered) ... (but) it's part of the [collective bargaining agreement] and it's within the rules," he said. "I get why at times you may not think it's the proper thing to do or the right thing to do, not in terms of the relationships with the other GMs, but in terms of the cost of getting the player to sign and the compensation that goes along with it.

"A lot of teams had situated themselves well to make them, and teams had situated themselves well to match or to make a decision at the time. It's interesting, it's new, it gives us all something to talk about and debate, which is nice. I'm not surprised, is I guess what I would say."

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen contributed to this report

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