Mitchell Marner remains a restricted free agent, but Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Thursday he’s hopeful the 22-year-old forward will sign a new contract before the start of the regular season.
“I’ll stick with the same answer I’ve given for a long time now, I’m optimistic that we will [sign Marner],” Dubas said. “You don’t want to envision the team missing players at any point. We’re hopeful to get it done … I would feel a little differently personally if there weren’t other situations around the League that were sort of in the same stalemated position.
“[We’re] just continuing to stay in contact and try to find our way to a solution and don’t let too much time go by in trying to wait each other out and roll from there.”
The Maple Leafs begin the season against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 2. Their first training camp practice is in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Friday.
“We don’t want to think about going into the season without Mitch on the roster on opening night,” Dubas said. “We didn’t want to get to this point without him here either.”
Video: Chris Johnston has the latest on Marner, CBA talks
Marner set NHL career highs in goals (26), assists (68) and points (94) last season, and could become the second Maple Leafs player in as many seasons to miss training camp. Forward William Nylander was a restricted free agent until he agreed to terms on a six-year contract before 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, 2018, the deadline to play in the NHL for the remainder of the season.
“There’s obviously some similarities,” he said, “but William’s situation was one where, I think we’ve discussed a lot, was really a 3-4 month process. This one has been much longer than that, and I think one of the things we’ve learned is once it starts continuing to give updates and continuing to discuss it, I think is not always the best … I know it doesn’t serve the media and the public overly well, but in learning from that, I think that’s why we want to handle it that way and we’ll roll from there.”
Dubas said he hopes the relationship between Marner and the Maple Leafs will not deteriorate to the point where Marner would want to sign an offer sheet with another team.
“I don’t ever like to think that way, that Mitch would play anywhere else other than here,” Dubas said. “He’s a big part of what we do, he’s an extraordinarily talented player … and he’s an excellent person that walks in here every day with great energy, great enthusiasm and brings a lot of life to our club. So in the end, I think these things happen. With William there were some heated times as well, but that relationship is excellent and I have faith that … once it comes to a solution that we’ll have to have a probably very blunt discussion about things and then we’ll carry on. There’s going to be no grudges from our end whatsoever.
“We’re just focused on trying to bring it to an end, and always keep that in mind regardless of what the noise is around the situation.”
Marner is among a group of high-profile RFAs who remain unsigned, including forwards Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks, Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames, Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins.