It’s not much, but for Toronto Maple Leafs fans willing to hang on anything said by still-unsigned restricted free agent Mitch Marner, it was at least something.
When Marner stepped in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday, he did undoubtedly knowing what the first line of questioning would be. And the second, and the third.
When is he going to sign?
“Hopefully sooner than later,” Marner said. “I want to be there for the start of camp, so hoping something can get done then.”
From there, Marner steered those questions toward his agent as he threw on his best pair dancing shoes and showed he could sidestep with the best of them.
If you’re looking for a t-shirt slogan, “You have to ask my agent” is right up there with the best of them in Toronto these days.
“My agent and Kyle are doing it, and they’re going to figure something out,” Marner said.
One thing Marner made pretty clear is he wouldn’t be at training camp without a contract.
“Probably not,” he said. “There’s so much risk with that. It’s just something you don’t want to risk.”
What about an offer sheet?
[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]
Marner whipped out the agent line once again, while saying he’s trying to stay out of all of that “stuff.”
So the uncertainty hasn’t affected you?
“None,” he said, before once again talking about his agent’s role in the negotiations.
What about fans’ concerns that you may not sign a contract with the Maple Leafs.
“I’m leaving all of that to my agent right now,” he said.
Those agents, man. Ruining Toronto’s summer for the second year in a row.
Marner seemed unfazed by it all and appears to be enjoying his summer.
Why wouldn’t he? He’s about to get paid in a major way, but the Maple Leafs or any number of teams that would be willing to lavish cash upon him if given the chance.
Marner’s situation is one of several playing out this summer. He’s not the only big-ticket RFA without a deal so far.
Patrik Laine in Winnipeg, Brayden Point in Tampa Bay, Mikko Rantanen in Colorado are just a few others. It’s become commonplace for big names without arbitration rights on the RFA list to let negotiations span the summer, if not further.
Marner’s contract is only illuminated better because of where he plays. Dominating two national TV broadcasters on a daily basis in Canada.
And the fear in Leafs Nations is made only worse knowing all-too-well where this path can lead.
William Nylander‘s contract last summer dragged right into the regular season and Nylander and the Maple Leafs felt those effects throughout the season.
The same scenario with Marner would be worse, given he’s the team’s leading point-getter from last season.
A Toronto native, Marner said he’s well-accustomed to the media and said his phone has been shut off for much of the summer.
Like he said, his agent is running the show. Marner’s merely the main protagonist who has yet to be revealed in a complex script.
When he will is anyone’s guess.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck