John Tavares is optimistic he'll have Mitch Marner back by his side when the Toronto Maple Leafs open their 2019-20 season, even though the 22-year-old winger has seen his contract negotiations drag into mid-August.
"There's lots of restricted free agents unsigned still, a lot of guys in a similar position as him," Tavares told TSN. "There's still some time here, I think we all believe the right thing will happen and something will get worked out. I think that's what both sides obviously want, sometimes it takes a little bit longer than others. Mitch is obviously an important player for our team. Just the type of guy he is as well, you can really count on him."
Tavares and Marner formed one of the league's most dynamic duos in their first season together, with the former notching a career-high 47 goals and the latter finishing ninth in NHL scoring with 94 points.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said earlier in August that contract talks with Marner remain "status quo," while Toronto's leading scorer previously stated he's "probably not" attending training camp - which opens Sept. 17 - without a new deal.
"I think Mitch knows that I'm here for him whenever he needs it, but certainly I think you want to respect his situation and his process," Tavares said.
The Leafs are currently above the $81.5-million salary cap. They can build an offseason roster with a projected cap hit as rich as $92.05 million, however, before placing David Clarkson and Nathan Horton on long-term injured reserve to become cap compliant, according to CapFriendly.