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SportNHL free agency rumors: Blue Jackets among teams considering offer sheet for Mitch Marner

00:15  13 july  2019
00:15  13 july  2019 Source:   sportingnews.com

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NHL free agency rumors: Blue Jackets among teams considering offer sheet for Mitch Marner © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited

As restricted free agent Mitch Marner continues contract talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs, several teams are waiting in the shadows and considering presenting him with an offer sheet. And according to The Athletic's Aaron Portzline, the Columbus Blue Jackets are one of those clubs.

Columbus hasn't had the strongest offseason, seeing the departure of not only star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but mainly losing a lot of forward depth; star winger Artemi Panarin left for the New York Rangers to kick off free agency, and midseason acquisitions Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel also found new destinations. While the Blue Jackets added Gustav Nyquist and still have Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois carrying the offense, they still have the need for more depth on the top-6. That's where Marner could potentially come into play.

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The 22-year-old winger was a force for the Leafs last season, leading the way with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists). He's been a consistent 60-plus point player over his three seasons in the NHL, and thanks to his speed, hockey IQ and creative style, he's likely to continue to improve as he gets older. Given his performance, he's expected to get a pay raise to anywhere upwards of $8 million per year.

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Columbus does have the cap space to make an offer with about $15.75 million to work with. Toronto, on the other hand, is in a salary cap crunch and has just about $3.77 million in space after having addressed other offseason needs thus far. Marner is the Leafs' only remaining RFA (and he's not arbitration-eligible).

Given the situation, it does seem that some teams can easily make an offer out of Toronto's ballpark, which could force general manager Kyle Dubas's hand. He warned that Toronto won't automatically just match any offer sheet, however, given Marner's importance to the team and his presence on the top line, losing him wouldn't help — especially after the departure of Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown.

The Blue Jackets wouldn't necessarily see Marner join their young core and fill the void on offense left by their star forwards, but it could put things in motion and also give them a chance at acquiring a big name via free agency, something they need if they want to return to the playoffs and make a bid for a longer run this time around.

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