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Marner contract more clear after Maple Leafs sign Johnsson, Kapanen

'Know exactly' where offer will fit relative to salary cap, Dubas says

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Mitchell Marner can become a restricted free agent on July 1, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have a better idea of what they can offer after signing forwards Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen on Friday.

"When you have certainty, you know exactly where things are going to fit relative to the salary cap so you're really not guessing anymore," Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said. "You know exactly how much space you're going to have for other initiatives you want to undertake."

Johnsson signed a four-year, $13.6 million contract ($3.4 million average annual value) and Kapanen signed a three-year, $9.6 million contract ($3.2 million average annual value). Each could have become a restricted free agent July 1. 

But Toronto's top priority is re-signing Marner, who led the Maple Leafs with an NHL career-high 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 82 games this season. 

"Anytime we have players we really, really like (Johnsson and Kapanen), we want to keep them for as long as possible and that was the point of [signing them]," Dubas said. "Everybody knows our situation, we're not flush with cap space in large part because we have some excellent young players (Marner, center Auston Matthews and forward William Nylander) who we really like. We're trying to keep this all together and keep it rolling so knowing where those guys fit in exactly helps.

Dubas said discussions regarding a new contract for Marner continue and the process is ongoing.

"What we think about Mitch is not up for debate. He's an excellent person first and foremost, and an excellent young player," he said. "I'm optimistic and feel good about where things will go in the future."

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However, Dubas said the Maple Leafs do not have a lot of room under the NHL salary cap, which was announced as $81.5 million following the conclusion of the 2019 NHL Draft, and they would still like to add some players.

"We've got to save space for Mitch, and that's totally fine, but regardless, if we had something done (with Marner) tonight, we would still be right tight to the salary cap," Dubas said. "So we are trying to do some creative things on the edges with players who perhaps look at this as a legacy opportunity for them or a chance to rebound. We're just staying patient and [trying to] find the right people who might fit for us on those minimum or close to minimum deals."

One of those players is Ron Hainsey, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The 38-year-old defenseman, who had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) and was plus-30 in 81 games this season, played most of the past two seasons for Toronto on its top defense pair with Morgan Rielly

"Ron has been excellent for us and has played a massive role in our top pair as a great partner to Morgan, and then off the ice with his personality and how that's added to the progression in our locker room," Dubas said. "His play with us may make the pricing a little bit difficult, but we hope to stay in touch with him and at the very least have the chance at the end to take one last kick at it. He's earned the right to cash in a little bit, too."

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