The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that they have signed Martin Marincin to a one-year contract extension, worth the league minimum Annual Average Value of $700,000, confirming once and for all that the 27-year-old Slovak will outlast us all, playing for the Leafs until the end days of the universe.
At least that’s what it feels like, right? Originally acquired by the Maple Leafs in June 2015, the ever-polarizing defensive specialist is signing his fifth contract with the team, having signed extensions in June 2015, July 2016, July 2018, June 2019, and now, January 2020.
The timing is a lot different from previous deals, where Marincin was more of an afterthought transaction for the team. This year, however, he was signed just nine days after earning eligibility for an extension. I’d imagine a large part of that is the no-risk, high-reward nature of the terms – there is literally no way for this contract to get any lower in AAV now, but any sort of successful run of form from now until the end of the season could, in theory, increase his value.
The idea of Marincin exploding into a valuable piece over the next three months obviously feels like a long shot at this point – while many have pointed to his strong underlying defensive numbers over the years as a reason for optimism, and while he’s shown signs of offensive flair and ability to take on big minutes under Sheldon Keefe with the Toronto Marlies, we have yet to see that puck-moving confidence carry over to the NHL, making him an unlikely bet to vie for serious minutes in the months moving ahead. All the same, stranger things have happened, and you never know when an injury frees up ice time for a depth piece.
More than likely, Marincin plays out these two years as the same utility player as he’s been the last couple of years – coming in and out of the lineup, being sent up and down between the two leagues, and never once complaining about it along the way. That in itself has value – it’s rare that you’ll find a player who is content with playing at any time, in any place, and even on either side in his defensive pairing.
It’s also rare that your 7th defenceman is clearly above replacement level in ability – Evolving Hockey has Marincin ranked 146th out of 224 regular (2000+ mins) defencemen in Goals Above Replacement (+6.2 GAR) since he joined the Leafs in 2015/16. That pegs him as a 4th or 5th defenceman on an average – even if that were to be an over-estimation, having even a useful #6 as your #7 is already money in the depth bank, especially when he costs you literally the least amount of money.
For comparison, only six defencemen in the NHL are on identical contracts this year – Luke Schenn, Michael Stone, Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin, Radim Simek, and Anthony Bitetto. Of this group, only Bitetto and Marincin are averaging above-replacement level results this year. That is to say, $700,000 contracts are typically for the players who are clinging onto their careers for dear life, riding expectations from a few years ago for a few more paycheques. So to get a defenceman that is awkward to watch but capable of delivering a net positive result at that price is far from a bad thing.
Naturally, this deal will get some negative reaction – Marincin is not well-liked in Toronto due to his less-than-brilliant skating ability and gaffes with the puck. But the deal is good, the player is happy, and it beats stashing a prospect in the press box or opting for a much worse player in the same price range just to make the casual fan at the water cooler a little happier for a few weeks.
So to this, I say bring on another year of Magnum Marty – may his trails be happy, his gaps be tight, his sticks be active, and may the rest of the defensive depth chart fill up and stay healthy so his minutes are exactly as many as his play dictates.---
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