Since the beginning of the season, much of the conversation had in the Maple Leafs front office has revolved around not only available cap space but extensions for youngsters as well.
Most recently, there has been speculation, shortening the potential terms for Auston Matthews, knowing that the two sides had negotiating and with recent progress being made as well.
That in mind, TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie got the ball rolling on Tuesday morning, reporting that a contract with Toronto appeared to be imminent, meanwhile noting that the projection would be for five years.
McKenzie would also add on that the contract could be done on Tuesday, if not, Wednesday while also noting that the AAV would be worth a value of around $11.5 million, if not, 100K or 200K.
Just over an hour later, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.ca would jump in on the conversation, reporting that the deal was being closed and would indeed be for the next five seasons. He also mentioned that the AAV would be between $11.5 and $11.7 million.
Within just a moment later, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto reported that it was in fact a done deal while also adding on that the expectation was for an announcement to made on Tuesday.
McKenzie would then jump back in to put the final pieces of the contract together, confirming that it was for five years and close to an AAV of $11.6 million.
Friedman then added that the expectation was for the exact annual average value number to be for $11.634 million while continuing on to say that it would be announced shortly afterwards.
A club announcement was then made to officially confirm the transaction and it’s financial figures, ultimately unloading a weight off the back of Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs front office staff.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.ca was next to join in on the fun, making mention of the fact that 93% of Matthews’ new deal would be paid to him in signing bonuses.
Because the Maple Leafs only signed Matthews to a five-year contract extension, it does ultimately reduce the average annual value of the contract because the Leafs purchased fewer of Matthews’ unrestricted free agency-eligible years.
With Matthews’ extension now officially in the books for Toronto, it becomes the latest to be completed since William Nylander’s back in December which held him out of NHL action until his camp agreed with the Maple Leafs organization.
Matthews’ new deal is set to kick in at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season and it will take him through to the conclusion of the 2023-2024 season. He will be 26 years of age when his extension with the team expires.
Jonas Siegel of The Athletic Toronto spoke briefly with Jon Tavares on Tuesday morning where he said about Matthews at the end of their practice session, “The sky’s the limit for him.”
Like many of his teammates, Tavares has been aware of the on-going discussions since Friedman reported on Saturday that the Leafs would talk this week with Matthews.
Mike Johnston of Sportsnet.ca then added to this on Monday night, reporting that discussions had intensified, ultimately leading them to agree and close the deal at noon on Tuesday.
Once his new contract officially kicks in next October, the pending restricted free agent will make a total base salary of $58.17 million over the lifetime of the agreement.
As noted by Mike Johnston of Sportsnet.ca, Matthews was eligible to sign an eight-year extension, however that would have complicated the team’s long-term salary cap outlook. This means Matthews can hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent by age 26.
It was also reported on Saturday that Matthews’s agent, Judd Moldaver, flew from Los Angeles to Toronto to meet with the team and help assist with the finalization of a long-term contract.
Matthews was originally selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round (first overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, as noted by Kristen Shilton of TSN.ca, the San Ramon, California native has proven to be among the Leafs’ most consistent offensive producers in his first two and a half seasons in the National Hockey League.
When asked about contract discussions after Saturday night’s game against the Penguins, Matthews said to reporters, “There’s no secret there’s a cap. So, try to find something that works for both sides and obviously helps us out with that whole situation. I’ll leave it to them and just continue to play hockey, and once it’s done, it’s done. That’ll be it.”
When asked about going with the young theme that Dubas is looking to bring aboard en route to a playoff run, Matthews told reporters, “We’ve got a lot of great players on this team. A lot of young guys. A solid core. We want to be a great team and a team that makes the city proud — and accomplish our ultimate goal — for a long time. Keeping that core intact is a big part of that.”
This signing is just the latest to take place since Jake Muzzin’s acquisition last Monday to help increase the club’s production offensively and to round out the team’s blue line as well.
In taking a look now at Matthews’ numbers thus far into the regular season, the 21-year-old has scored 23 goals to go alongside 23 assists, making for 46 points registered in a total of 38 games played.
As for his 2017-2018 campaign, Matthews scored 34 goals to go alongside 29 assists, making for 63 points registered in a total of 62 games played. He also added a goal and an assist in seven games played in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Overall, for the entirety of his NHL career as a whole, Matthews has scored 97 goals to go alongside 81 assists, making for 178 points registered in a total of 182 games played.
As for the Stanley Cup playoffs, Matthews has scored 5 goals and 2 assists, making for 7 points registered in a total of 13 postseason games played. Speaking of which, taking a look back at the 2016-17 season, Matthews captured the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
He was also named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team after breaking a pair of Maple Leaf records in both the goal (40) and point (69) categories. This would put him in the lead above all rookies in both categories as well.
Matthews also opened his career with a new NHL record when he scored four goals in his NHL debut back on October 12th, 2016. This took place at the Canadian Tire Centre against the Ottawa Senators in the nation’s capital.
Most recently, Matthews represented Toronto at the NHL All-Star Game in three consecutive seasons with the exception of this year’s game at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
Below is a year-by-year breakdown of what Matthews will make when the 2019-2020 season begins:
Year 1: $15.2M SB, $700K salary
Year 2: $15.2M SB, $700K salary
Year 3: $9.7M SB, $750K salary
Year 4: $7.2M SB, $750K salary
Year 5: $7.2M SB, $750K salary
All in all, the deal will make for $54.5 million in additional signings bonuses while in base salary it will come up to a total of $3.65 million.
As noted by Josh Wegman of TheScore.com, Matthews’ AAV now makes him the second-highest paid player in the league, trailing only Connor McDavid and what he is making with the Edmonton Oilers.
It is also worth noting that Matthews’ annual cap hit is $634,000 more than his fellow teammate John Tavares who is making $77 million which he signed for with Toronto over the summer.
That being said, the Maple Leafs project to have $16.4 million in cap space next season with Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson all listed as key pending restricted free agents still left to sign.
While having missed a total of only 34 games due to injury, Matthews 97 career goals ranks him sixth in the NHL and fourth in scoring on the team as well. Speaking of which, given his offensive production and career statistics, only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has a better goals per game rate since 2016-17.
Matthews’ deal matches up to that of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos who also signed a five-year deal after his entry-level contract expired at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 season.
Given the fact that it’s shorter than what he could’ve gotten from Kyle Dubas, it also makes his deal reminiscent to that of what John Tavares previously inked with the New York Islanders.
Both players ended up signing for shorter time periods than they were eligible to sign for, mostly so they could hit free agency to sign elsewhere at a younger age. This of course joined by a variety of other reasons for each player respectively.
With Matthews now locked up for the foreseeable future ahead, the Maple Leafs now turn their attention towards Mitch Marner whom the team has had preliminary discussions with though are not yet near an agreement at this time.
Of course, he is just one of several loose ends for the club to look at, however, with Jake Gardiner currently headed for unrestricted free agency, Marner is just another important factor that would benefit Toronto in the years to come.
For the time being, Marner’s contract talks have been put on hold at his agent’s requests, a conversation they will look to re-open at the conclusion of the regular season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are back in action on Wednesday night when they play host to the Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Arena at 7:30pmET. The game can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario, Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports, meanwhile, it can be heard on Sportsnet 590 The Fan and TSN Radio 1200 Ottawa.