Connect with us


Should the Flyers Actively Pursue a Trade for Mitch Marner?

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

The Philadelphia Flyers are starving for offensive talent and while the free agent pickings look very slim this summer, there are plenty of options on the open market via a trade, including Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner.

The Maple Leafs’ lack of playoff success came to roost as they decided to move on from their head coach in Sheldon Keefe on Thursday after five seasons. They were defeated in the first round for the seventh time in eight years and it seems like more moves are on the horizon.

Once believed to be a cornerstone piece, Marner has resurfaced on the chopping block and it should come as no surprise that a myriad of teams have expressed their interest. However, a move for Marner is easier said than done with the winger carrying a full no-movement clause and a cap hit of $10.9 million, all the while playing on an expiring contract in 2024-25.

On the surface, Marner would solve several key problems for the Flyers. For starters, he would instantly become their most skilled offensive player and their first real scoring talent since Claude Giroux. The Flyers’ scoring woes have been ever-present by the fact that they have had just one point-per-game player since Giroux last did it in 2018. Travis Konecny has paced the club in points in four of the last five seasons with his best points-per-game season coming in 2022-23 when he tallied 61 points in 60 games.

Marner comes in with 194 goals and 639 points in 576 games in his eight-year career with Toronto. His lowest output came during his rookie season when he scored 61 points in 77 games. From 2018-19 to 2023-24, Marner has reached the lofty heights of being a point-per-game player with 509 points in just 417 games. He tallied a career-high in goals (35) in 2021-22 and then reached a career-best 99 points in 2022-23. This year in just 69 games, he had 26 goals and 85 points and was well on his way to his first 100-point season.

Over his career, Marner has been a prolific playmaker where he has surpassed the 60-assist mark three times. Where he could help the Flyers the most would be on the power play as he comes into the summer with 195 power play points in his career, including 27 this past season. To put that into perspective, the Flyers as a team scored just 31 power play goals and Morgan Frost led the way with only 11 power play points.

While it’s easy to fall for his offensive prowess, Marner has been a relatively consistent defensive threat as well. He finished third in Selke Trophy voting last year and has received votes for the illustrious award in five straight seasons. Alongside the Selke Trophy, Marner has also received a lot of respect and admiration in Lady Byng voting, as he finished fourth in 2021-22 and has received votes over the last five years as well.

For his career, his analytical numbers look fantastic too. Marner has a career CF% of 56.4, CF% rel of 7.6, FF% of 56.0, FF% rel of 7.4, and PDO of 102.0. His best season was 2021-22 where he finished with a 59.9 CF% and 59.7 FF% and while a lot of that can be attributed to playing on a vaunted Maple Leafs team and alongside Auston Matthews, it’s hard to look past his consistency from his rookie year to the present.

So, while it seems like a perfect fit on paper, does it make sense logistically for the Flyers to not only trade away potentially coveted assets, but then to extend him to a long-term deal where the cap hit would be around $12 million at minimum? Marner would first have to waive his no-movement clause for this to take place, but with how things have soured in Toronto and with the media painting him as the scapegoat, many insiders are getting the sense that he wouldn’t mind a change of scenery.

Many insiders have speculated that while the Maple Leafs did their due diligence on the trade market with William Nylander before extending him to the maximum of eight years. They might not necessarily do the same with Marner, in the sense that they might have to bite the bullet and “lose” on the trade.

They were interested in what they could have received in return for Nylander, didn’t like what was proposed or on the table, and decided it was better for the present and future to keep Nylander around. With changes desperately needed in Toronto and a contract extension most likely not available, trading Marner is a more of a must than a need.

What could the Leafs want from the Flyers in return for one of the more prolific wingers in the game today? A first round pick and a really good prospect would have to be on the table at minimum. Considering their lack of defensive prospects and Easton Cowan playing alongside Oliver Bonk in the OHL, he could be on their radar.

Could the Leafs finally get their hands on Konecny as well? His $5.5 million cap hit for the 2024-25 season is almost half of what Marner is making and he’s the exact player that they have been coveting for years. To receive talent, you have to trade away talent, but is that something the Flyers want to do in the middle of a supposed rebuild?

The biggest hit on Marner’s game is his lack of postseason success and that will be talked about until the end of time if it were to continue beyond 2023-24. The Maple Leafs have been on the receiving end of some brutal postseason upsets, including in the playoff bubble – technically on home ice – against the Columbus Blue Jackets before being defeated by the Montréal Canadiens in seven games the following year.

Marner tallied just four assists in the five games against Columbus in 2020 and then tallied four assists in seven games against Montréal. Overall, he has 11 goals and 50 points in 57 postseason games with his best outing coming in the spring of 2023 when he scored 14 points in 11 games. This year, the Maple Leafs needed him more than ever with Nylander missing the first three games of the series and then Matthews missing two-plus games himself. Marner looked out of place, was not winning any of the board battles, and mustered just one goal and three points in seven games.

The Flyers don’t possess the same level of talent the Maple Leafs were able to surround around Marner. There are no Matthews, Nylander, or even John Tavares-esque players on the Flyers roster right now, so Marner would have to be the alpha and the go-to guy moving forward. While Philadelphia has a lot of decent-to-good options in Konecny, Joel Farabee, and Sean Couturier, there would be a lot of pressure on Marner to perform instantly; not to mention manning a power play that has set an NHL record for finishing dead-last in three straight seasons.

Another factor to think about is whether or not he can get along with head coach John Tortorella. There was seemingly a lack of accountability in Toronto where the star players were giving a lot of leeway and were very rarely admonished. We’ve already witnessed first hand the wrath of Tortorella with players like Farabee, Couturier, Morgan Frost, Kevin Hayes, Tony DeAngelo, and Cam Atkinson, among others. Some rise to the occasion, while others falter or butt heads.

For the most part, Marner is a responsible forward and also a shorthanded threat – something the “power kill” could benefit even more from. In 2017-18, Marner had an 85:50 takeaway to giveaway ratio, 72:63 in 2021-22, and 104:94 in 2022-23. While he sits at or near the top the leaderboards in giveaways, he’s also near or at the top in takeaways. With a much looser role in Toronto that can be understood but some of that will not be taken lightly under Tortorella.

Overall, it would be a massive change in Philadelphia. The Flyers have not had a player of his ilk in a very long time and for a team starving for offensive talent, he checks off a lot of boxes. Marner is an all-situation player, has averaged 21:26 ATOI since 2019-20, and can affect the game in all facets.

The first issue surrounding a move for the 27-year-old is whether or not he would waive his NMC for the Flyers. In a world where he would, the second obstacle would be whether or not it would be worthwhile to sign him to the full eight-year, $100 million deal that he’s looking for.

At first glance, the Flyers look to be stuck in cap hell entering the summer of 2024, but they could always alleviate a big chunk by placing Ryan Ellis or Ryan Johansen on LTIR – something they did not do last year. An Atkinson buyout has been in the cards since the season ended and according to CapFriendly that would save the team $3.516 million in 2024-25 but accrue a loss of $1.758 million in cap space in 2025-26.

A Marner extension would begin in 2025-26, but that’s going to be an interesting summer to begin with because the Flyers have Atkinson, Konecny, Johansen, Frost, Noah Cates, Garnet Hathaway, Tyson Foerster, and Cam York coming off the books and/or needing new contracts. There are a lot of variables at play, and it’s also worth mentioning that Matvei Michkov could make his NHL debut a little sooner than expected if reports are to be believed.

The Flyers can certainly afford a Marner trade, his $10.9 million cap hit next season, and a long-term extension moving forward, but is it something that would benefit them or be more of a hindrance?

Flyers fan born in the heart of Leafs nation

More in Analysis