NHL: Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs Agree to Four-Year Extension

Auston Matthews is staying as a Toronto Maple Leaf for the next five years.

He and Toronto have agreed to a four-year, $53 million extension, working at a cap hit of $13.25 million per year, the highest cap hit in NHL history, besting Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche ($12.6 million per year).

In what has been the biggest offseason priority for the Maple Leafs and general manager Brad Treliving in his first year for Toronto, they have secured their face of the franchise in their core. It took them seven years to win a playoff series during the Matthews era, but he has earned his fair share of accomplishments up to this point in his career.

Now he is under contract for the next five seasons, where he will have a full no-movement clause in all of these years, and will become an unrestricted free agent at 30 years old at the conclusion of the 2027-28 season.

Matthews Looks to Bounce Back to Form

Last season was considered a down year by Matthews’ standards, scoring 40 goals and 45 assists in 74 games, but he was instrumental in winning them their first series since downing the Ottawa Senators in seven games in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. In 11 playoff games, Matthews scored five goals and six assists, including a two-goal outing in their Game 4 comeback victory in their first round series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the year before, Matthews became just the third player in the salary cap era to score 60 goals in a season, joining Alex Ovechkin (65 in 2007-08) and Steven Stamkos (60 in 2011-12), and later joined by Connor McDavid (64) and David Pastrňák (61) last season. During his 60-goal year, Matthews also took home the Hart Memorial Trophy, Rocket Richard Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award. The main goal, however, is for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup since 1967.

It was well-known that the Leafs were up against the cap this offseason, and Matthews could have asked for a lot more on his contract, but their cap situation will only get tighter from here on out. They have limited financial flexibility for at least the next two seasons, raising questions about William Nylander’s playing future given that he is on a contract year, though he said that he wishes to remain a Leaf and is not concerned about his situation.

But this is a solid resolution for both parties. Matthews is one of the best goal-scorers in the league and one of Toronto’s best players. But at the end of the day, he will be judged based on whether or not he can help break the Curse of Harold Ballard and bring Lord Stanley’s finest hardware to the Six.

A Win-Win Situation for Both Sides

There is no doubt elite talent is very expensive in the NHL. The salary cap is expected to go up significantly through the next three seasons, and, amazingly, there is money left on the table to be had. Toronto has tried their best at getting a longer-term extension for Matthews, but he and his agent didn’t want anything past four years. But he still cares about the Leafs, the city, and winning for his guys.

Treliving deserves his flowers for how he handled this contract, essentially redeeming himself after what looked to be a less-than-ideal Day One of free agency in signing Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi in Day Two, and then a month and two thirds later, this extension.

Winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest accomplishment to do in the NHL. It took Steve Yzerman 14 years to win his first Cup. Ovechkin took 13 years. Stamkos took 12, and MacKinnon and Patrick Roy each took nine. This signing sets the Leafs up for success, locking up their top centreman and are committed to winning. Much of the same can be expected in the Nylander talks and when Mitch Marner is eligible for an extension next summer.

Matthews wants nothing more than to win a Cup with Toronto, and he will do everything he can to bring the dreams to reality. This coming season may be their best chance at it.

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