Leafs might be waiting to name Matthews captain because of Marner

The only off-season storyline remotely as tiresome as the whole “Mitch Marner contract negotiation thing” is the whole “when are the Leafs going to name their captain?” thing.

It’s a subjective topic that anyone who isn’t on the ice or in that dressing room on a near-daily basis doesn’t really have the authority to speak on, but this is Toronto and diving into speculation over symbolic, increasingly irrelevant jersey letters is a big part of what we do around here.

So, let’s rejoice in the fact that our two favourite off-season talking points are merging and collaborating in a very Maple Leafs kind of way Wednesday: Toronto might be ready to name Auston Matthews team captain, but is worried it might disrupt negotiations between Marner and the Leafs, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

“I believe it’s Auston Matthews… but I think the timing of that is tricky, especially with Marner’s situation unresolved,” Johnston said on a television appearance Monday. “Do they want to make that announcement before Mitch Marner signs?

“That might complicate some of the discussions being had on the side. So I think it’s a little bit of a delicate issue. It’s one that I don’t think Kyle Dubas enjoys too much…but to me this is the right time for the Leafs to have a captain.”

Matthews, left, and Marner have developed a special bond on and off the ice. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Matthews, left, and Marner have developed a special bond on and off the ice. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The sentiment was basically echoed by The Athletic’s James Mirtle during a TSN 1050 radio hit on Tuesday.

“I think they’re going to name Auston Matthews captain. I wonder if (with) the Marner situation, if they’re worried about the optics of that or not. That’s the only hang-up. If that wasn’t going on I’d say they would name Auston Matthews captain.”

None of this is official or confirmed, but it’s seemed like Matthews has been destined to get the ‘C’ all along — whenever Dubas and Mike Babcock feel the 2016 No. 1 overall pick is ready to be the captain of one of the most scrutinized and spotlighted professional teams in the world.

That time appears to be now, but the timing is also bad, apparently, with this Marner holdout looming. Do the Leafs feel Marner and/or his camp are too sensitive and need to be regarded in the same peer class as Matthews THAT badly?

The Leafs, who surely have a pretty good gauge on their negotiating partners by now, apparently think so.

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