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Marner will play for Maple Leafs this season, Tavares says

Center confident that 'something will get done here eventually' to keep restricted free agent in Toronto

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Mitchell Marner will be playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, center John Tavares said Friday.

Marner, a 22-year-old forward who led the Maple Leafs with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 82 games last season, is a restricted free agent. He said Thursday that he is staying out of the negotiations but is unlikely to attend training camp in September if an agreement isn't reached by then.

The Maple Leafs were in a similar situation a year ago; forward William Nylander impasse stretched into the regular season before the sides came to an agreement minutes before the Dec. 1 deadline to play last season. Nylander agreed to a six-year contract worth $6.9 million per season and made his season debut on Dec. 6.

 

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"I think probably with the way things went with Willie, it obviously makes people wonder and think," Tavares told TSN. "But there's a lot of really good restricted free agents unsigned right now, and it's not really uncommon, especially at this time, for a lot of guys who over the years have been in the same position.

"Obviously, there's been a lot of talk about the offer sheets this year, and it seems more so than other years. But I think obviously the organization and [general manager Kyle Dubas] recognize how important Mitch is to the team and have set up the team and the cap very well to be prepared for anything that comes our team's way. I think we know how much Mitch loves being here and wants to be a part of it here. There's no doubt in my mind that something will get done here eventually."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm1: Marner scores after hitting both posts

Center Nazem Kadri, who was traded by the Maple Leafs to the Colorado Avalanche on July 1, said Marner is worthy of a lucrative long-term contract.

"An exceptional player," said Kadri, who along with Tavares attended the second annual Marner All-Star Invitational benefitting his Marner Assist Fund. "He's one of the best, maybe quite possibly in the League. Obviously, [Marner] deserves to get paid.

"He's worked extremely hard to get to this point. The city of Toronto loves him, and, in my opinion, I think needs him. Whatever happens, happens. But you certainly can't take away from what he's done in his first three years."

Tavares excelled in his first season with the Maple Leafs after signing a seven-year, $77 million contract as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2018. He centered a line with Marner on right wing and finished with 88 points (47 goals, 41 assists) in 82 games.

"I think his impact goes so far, not just on the ice, but in our locker room," Tavares said. "Just the type of person he is … obviously, the type of player, plays in all situations, and just so smart, so cerebral, elite skillset, and obviously still got so much more room to grow. We're excited obviously about his potential and what he has ahead of him."

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