Exploring a Rangers Trade for Each of Toronto’s Core Four

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 26: Head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe, handles bench duties during the third period against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on March 26, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 26: Head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe, handles bench duties during the third period against the Montreal Canadiens at Centre Bell on March 26, 2022 in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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TORONTO, CANADA – JANUARY 25: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the New York Rangers during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 25, 2023, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Rangers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, CANADA – JANUARY 25: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime against the New York Rangers during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 25, 2023, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Rangers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

 Mitchell Marner

This is the most realistic one of the quartet to move because of the pure size of his contract. More likely than Tavares because he has no trade protection, more likely than Nylander because it clears more space, and more likely than Matthews because this is a guy that has never scored 60 goals. Mitchell Marner makes $11 million a year or close enough to it. He’s an expensive player, but there is a reason for it.

Marner is one of the best playmakers in hockey. That comes with the contract when you are paying this player that much money, but it is true. In 80 games this past season, Marner had 69 assists. Combine that with the 30 goals he had and you’re looking at a player that fell just shy of the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. The best year of his career and he’s still only 26. He’s not about to fall off a cliff performance-wise.

This is also a player that is a finalist for the Selke Trophy that is supposedly given to the league’s best defensive forward but is more accurately given to the league’s best 200-foot forward. Marner is unlikely to win the award because Patrice Bergeron exists and he has won it so many times there is a genuine case to rename the award after Bergeron’s retirement, but that isn’t the point here.

Where the issues come from is his contract. As I mentioned, his cap hit is higher than the GDP of some nations so he’s not exactly going to slide under the cap for the Rangers easily. On top of that, he will be turning old enough to have trade protection next year which means his full no-movement clause will kick in making it difficult to move him if he struggles upon arrival in his new destination.

This is a simple swap. I think there will be a lot of Toronto fans that hate the idea and will not at all pay attention to the reasoning behind it, but if you are reading this I’m assuming you are not one of the brainless folks that will scream at me in the comments down below without fully understanding, so thank you.

Panarin and Marner have a track record of turning into ghosts when the playoffs roll around. Panarin is probably the better player between the two, and his cap hit is only a little higher than Marner’s. The one drawback is that Marner only has 2 years left as opposed to Panarin’s 3. A straight swap between the two makes sense in theory, but it is unlikely that Panarin would waive his no-movement clause to go to Toronto.