March 25, 2023

All eyes will continue to be on the center of the hockey world of Toronto with the way the Maple Leafs are playing. Especially one Auston Matthews.

After a slow start to the season, Matthews has started to pick up his game with two goals in his last two games. And while there are still two years remaining on the five-year deal he signed, there is talk about what his next contract will look like already.

Many were shocked when Matthews only signed a five-year deal back in 2019 instead of the eight-year deals his peers were signing. But from the beginning, Matthews has a plan to maximize his value over multiple contracts. This is something similar we see players do in the NBA. The players try to make sure they sign for max dollars allowed but the length of the contract is a little shorter.

Thus Matthews signed a five-year deal that carried a salary cap hit of $11.64 million a season. Considering the numbers Matthews was putting up, the first-round pick of 2016 was living up to his contract and only getting better.

When Matthews signed his contract, the salary cap was consistently going up as revenues went. So the $11.640 million was about 15 percent of the salary cap. General manager Kyle Dubas was projecting a higher cap, Matthews cap hit was relative to others making similar money or taking the same percentage.

Nobody saw COVID comin g keeping the salary cap at $81.5 million as economic growth in the league slowed down. However, just as Auston Matthews is supposed to hit free agency in the summer of 2024, the salary cap is expected to be even higher than the $3-$4 million it could rise this summer. So everything is lining up perfectly for Matthews to strike it big again.

And as reported via Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, it is not a matter of if Auston Matthews is re-signing in Toronto, but for how much and how many years.

Currently, Nathan MacKinnon is the highest-paid player in the NHL. His new eight-year deal carries a salary cap hit of $12.6 million a season. You would expect Matthews to get that or even more. While Matthews might say it, you know he wants to be the highest-paid player. When people talk about him in the same breath as Connor McDavid for best player in the world, being number one in dollars earned and cap hit matters.

Matthews won the Hart, Ted Lindsay, and Rocket Richard Trophies during the 2021-22 season. MacKinnon has a Stanley Cup to his name. That is something Matthews wants as well.

And while the Maple Leafs have not won a playoff series during Matthews’s time in Toronto, he likes it there and feels Toronto is home.

As Friedman notes, the number is going to be what it is going to be. But when he turns 27, there is a chance he can max out again at age 31. Again things can change if Toronto starts to struggle, but their core is locked up and their window to win is right now.

As far as the next contract and what it could be and where it could be. Nobody really has that answer. Again Matthews could sign an eight-year extension with the Maple Leafs, but history shows that may not be the case. Matthews could head home to Arizona, but that feels far stretched more now than when he originally signed his current deal in 2019.

There is a long way before any of this can happen. The negotiating period can’t start until this offseason. One thing is for sure Matthews will get any dollar amount he wants when he becomes a free agent.





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