A year ago, Mitch Marner was seen as an untouchable part of the future in Toronto. Fast forward to today, and Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos is suggesting that Marner may not be a long-term fit in Toronto. After scoring 19-42-61 in 77 games last season, Marner has been relegated to the bottom six in Toronto this season.
Even in that bottom six role, Marner has managed to post eight points in 16 games (1-7-8), which evens out to a 41 point pace over a full season. While that is a fine total for a middle six forward, I think we almost all agree that Marner is better than that. So, why is Mike Babcock using him in the role he is right now?
Apparently Marner’s defensive game is in shambles right now, according to those who follow the Leafs, and Babcock is trying to send a message. That being said, the verbal coming from insiders surrounding this situation raises some eyebrows. Kypreos’ take is first I’ve seen suggesting Marner isn’t part of the future, which peaked my interest.
If, in fact, Marner is available, should the Edmonton Oilers pursue him? It’s certainly interesting to speculate on when the Oilers are the NHL’s worst offense and are in desperate need of talent up front.
A Look At Marner:
Aside from the big rookie season, who exactly is Mitch Marner? The 4th overall pick of the 2015 entry draft, Marner is an extremely talented winger who was considered a cornerstone in Toronto until about three weeks ago. He’s a right shot winger, and stands in at 6 feet tall and 175 pounds.
He dominated in the OHL for the London Knights, and dominated last year for the Maple Leafs. As mentioned above, even in his demotion, he is still averaging .50 points per game. Marner can be a weapon on the powerplay, can dish the puck, and has an insanely high talent level.
If the Oilers were to acquire him, there is no doubt in my mind that Marner would instantly become the team’s third best forward behind Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. He’d also be a natural fit for the team based on the fact he can play right wing.
Here’s a look at Marner’s scouting report via The Hockey News:
|Is a natural point producer with good skating ability and some versatility in his game. Passes the puck with aplomb and can be an excellent asset on the power play. Raises his level of play in big spots.|
|Is undersized for the professional ranks, so he needs to grow bigger and stronger in order to sustain peek production at the NHL level. Can get knocked off the puck from time to time.|
|Excellent scorer with good upside.|
The Potential Cost:
So, if Edmonton were to engage the Leafs in talks for Marner, what would Toronto want in return? The logical answer would be defense. That’s something that Kypreos also speculated on, naming Darnell Nurse as the potential return in a trade with Edmonton.
Would you trade Darnell Nurse for Mitch Marner if you were the GM of the Edmonton Oilers? I’ll answer that below, but it would be something I’d have to ponder. Nurse is a good young defender and I believe he has a lengthy NHL career in front of him.
Where exactly he will play is still up for debate. He struggled mightily in a top-four role his rookie year, but it was quite obvious he wasn’t ready for such a big responsibility. Last year, Nurse was much stronger in a depth role for the Oilers and I thought his game took a step forward. This season, Nurse has steadily handled second pairing minutes and I feel has taken another step forward.
Is Darnell Nurse a top-four defender in the NHL? He’s certainly played like it this season, but the sample size is very small. It is very possible Edmonton would be moving on from a quality young defender here, and it’s possible that if they deal him that will be looking for his replacement on the backend almost immediately.
Nurse has taken another step this season and I believe he has even more to give in the future. It’s my belief that Nurse, without a doubt, will be a top-four defender in the NHL.
Would You Do It?:
Right now, I believe that Mitch Marner is a better NHL player than Darnell Nurse and that he would have a greater impact on the Oilers this season. I believe Marner is a top-line forward in the NHL, but also believe Nurse is on track to be a top-four defender. It’s a tough deal to make, but it is one that I would pull the trigger on if I were GM.
That said, the Oilers love Nurse and unless they can’t sign him this summer, he isn’t going anywhere. If Edmonton wants to get their hands on Mitch Marner, they would have to send another defender Toronto’s way. While I would HATE to see it, perhaps Oscar Klefbom could fit that bill down the road.
Odds are, the Oilers and Leafs won’t be able to pull the trigger on a deal, but I’d still like to see Edmonton pickup the phone and ask about Marner. Even if it goes no where, at least you tried. And hey, maybe Kypreos isn’t just spit balling here, maybe you could get a first-line winger for Nurse.