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Is Mitch Marner Worth Four First-Round Picks For Flyers?

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The whispers were there seven summers ago except the whispers were teetering on screams. The Philadelphia Flyers were going big-game hunting and their eyes were set on landing Shea Weber, Ryan Suter or Zach Parise.

The rest of the story has been written. The orange and black ultimately struck out in the summer of 2012, but not without sending shock waves throughout the hockey world. Then-general manager Paul Holmgren did the unthinkable.

Holmgren signed Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet, pitting the Nashville Predators into a corner. Match the offer sheet and retain one of the game's best defensemen or accept it and walk away with four first-round picks from the Flyers.

Fast forward to now and the Flyers once again could rattle the calm waters by targeting Toronto Maple Leafs restricted free agent Mitch Marner.

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All eyes will be on Toronto and how it handles the dangerous Marner situation, especially coming off the William Nylander contract dispute.

"It's priority one for us and we'll get right to it," Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said April 25. "Without an answer on Mitch we're going to be in a stalemate. We're not going to jump around and chew up cap space that we may need for Mitch with fringe signings."

The 22-year-old reportedly is seeking a contract in the Auston Matthews ballpark – $11.6 million annual average value. At the very least, he'll fight to surpass Patrick Kane ($10.5 million) as the NHL's highest-paid winger. What he ends up with is to be determined.

This seems like it could be the summer of the offer sheet. Offer sheets have generally been off limits, but unwritten rules are always waiting to be broken.

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As Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman alluded to on his "31 Thoughts Podcast," there are enough breadcrumbs to speculate one's coming.

"The actions of the Maple Leafs in this particular case say to me they believe it's a possibility," Friedman said. "They believe it's coming."

There hasn't been an offer sheet in over six years. There hasn't been one accepted in 12 years. The Flyers have been involved in three of the past 11 offer sheets extended – Chris Gratton (1997), Ryan Kesler (2006) and Weber.

The offer sheet is complicated business but boils down to this: Any team can sign an RFA to an offer sheet, which puts the pressure on the team that owns the player's rights. That team has seven days to either accept the offer sheet or match it.

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If a team accepts the offer sheet, it receives draft-pick compensation. If it matches, the team signs the player to the contract agreed upon.

According to TSN's Gord Murphy, the 2019-20 offer sheet compensation is set.

An offer sheet for Marner's reported asking price would cost four first-round picks – the compensation for over $10,568,590. If it falls between $8,454,872 and $10,568,589, it's two first-round picks, a second-round pick and a third-rounder.

Debating the logistics of what a Marner offer sheet would look like for the Flyers takes a back seat to the bigger question, one that takes the cake when it comes to this topic.

Is Marner worth four first-round draft picks?

Because the idea behind offer sheeting Marner isn't to send Toronto farther into salary cap hell, it's to come away with the player.

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To do that, the Flyers would have to write a big, fat check that would make Marner the game's highest-paid winger and force the Leafs into submission.

For the Flyers, four first-round picks is a hefty price tag, but it's one worth paying.

Marner has established himself as one of the game's best playmakers, collecting 157 assists in 241 career games. He exploded for 94 points in 82 games this season, and he's nearly a point-per-game player (0.93) after just three campaigns.

Beyond the obvious — the speed, scoring and skill — Marner has developed into an excellent penalty killer, which is an area that the Flyers certainly could use an upgrade.

The scary thing is, Marner should only get better. He's not even close to entering his prime and opportunities like this one do not come around often, especially in hockey.

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If Toronto isn't going to pay market price, then someone else will.

While the Flyers have their own RFAs to worry about — Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim — they have the cap flexibility, the draft picks and the farm system to set the market and not hamstring themselves long term with the compensation.

At the end of the day, the Leafs have the right to match, and they likely would.

But the Flyers can set the market for the Leafs and if it's too rich, they'll come away with a 22-year-old superstar who will instantly upgrade major areas of need.

At the very least, it's something GM Chuck Fletcher has to consider.

The view from this seat is Marner is worth four first-round picks.

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